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Thirty-three random pregame pindowns — including another prediction — before the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse…
1. George Hill is still officially listed as questionable by the Cavaliers for tonight’s game because of back spasms. However, he was also listed as “questionable” for Games 4 and 5 and was not close to being able to answer the bell, so it’s likely he misses a third consecutive game.
2. Hill was hit by an illegal screen by Indiana’s Trevor Booker in Game 1 and hasn’t been the same since. He scored early and often in Game 3, but the spasms returned at halftime, forcing his early removal in the third quarter.
3. The 31-year-old Hill averaged 9.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 24 regular-season games as a Cavalier, all starts, in 27.9 minutes. He shot 50.9 percent from the field, 35.1 percent from beyond the 3-point line. He also played excellent defense.
4. If Hill can’t go tonight, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue will again turn to old reliable, Jose Calderon, who started Games 4 and 5 in Hill’s stead.
5. Calderon struggled in Games 1 and 2 and the Pacers repeatedly targeted him while he was playing defense. However, he’s responded with solid, workmanlike efforts in the last three games and unlike the first two games, him being on the floor didn’t hamper the Cavs.
6. “Jose has been steady for us all year,” Lue said. “G-Hill foes down and Jose comes in and makes plays. He’s been that guy for us all year.”
7. The most important numbers say when Calderon is a member of the starting lineup it’s a good thing for Cleveland — the Cavaliers are 25-9 in games this season the 36-year-old starts.
8. Lue has taken a lot of heat this season for questionable rotations and substitution patterns and lack of adjustments, but the guy deserves some kudos for the way the Cavaliers have played defensively in this series.
9. Cleveland has allowed Indiana to reach 100 points only once, the Cavs’ 104-100 victory in Game 4 in Indianapolis. For the series, the Pacers are averaging only 96.4 points per game.
10. The Cavaliers have the fourth-rated defensive rating of the 16 teams that made the playoffs, trailing only Golden State, Philadelphia and Utah, all of which were top-five defenses during the regular season. Cleveland, on the other hand, was rated 29th in the regular season, so Lue deserves credit for the almost-stunning transformation.
11. After Victor Oladipo had his way with Cleveland in Game 1, posting 32 points in a 98-80 win, Lue’s schemes have basically taken the All-Star away as the Pacers’ first-option. For the series, he is averaging 20.2 points, 6.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds in 37 minutes. However, he is shooting only 36.8 percent from the field and 32.5 percent on 3-balls.
12. A combination of blitzes in the pick-and-roll and double teams in isolation situations have forced the ball out of Oladipo’s hands in the last four games and forced Indiana big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis to try and beat them.
13. While both Turner and Sabonis have had some success, neither is capable of the type of performance by Oladipo in Game 1. In other words, the combination of Turner and Sabonis is the lesser of two evils, as far as the Cavaliers are concerned. Turner is averaging 13.4 points and Sabonis 11.6 in the series.
14. That having been said, look for Indiana coach Nate McMillan to make some adjustments tonight in an attempt to slow down the freight train in high-tops that is LeBron James, who is averaging 34.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 8.0 assists in the five games and shooting 55 percent from the field, including games of 46 and 44 points, respectively.
15. ESPN reported today Indiana has double-teamed James only 16 times — total — in the first five games of the series. Look for that to change tonight.
16. Of course, the Pacers have basically, aside from Kyle Korver, shut down the rest of the Cavaliers. In the two games Cleveland has lost in this series, Korver went scoreless. In the three games he’s scored even a single point, Cleveland is 3-0.
17. Incredibly, only two Cavs players — James and Korver — have scored more than two buckets in any game of this series. That’s not a misprint.
18. Korver is the third-leading scorer in the series for Cleveland at 9.8, doing so in only 22.7 minutes.
19. Aside from James and Korver, the other seven Cleveland players combined to shoot 11 of 40 (27.5 percent) in Game 5… and the Cavaliers still won, a testiment to the greatness of James and the contributions from the 37-year-old Korver.
20. Aside from James, the rest of the Cavaliers — aka, The Non-LeBrons — are shooting a combined 39 percent from the field, which has in part paved the way to Cleveland building leads of 18, 17, 16, an 11 points, respectively, in the last four games, then blowing almost all of them.
21. Even with James in full throttle, dive-bombing the basket — he made 12 buckets within five feet of the hoop in Game 5, alone — the Pacers have refused to leave the other Cavalier players, denying them the open looks of which they’ve been accustomed.
22. Kevin Love, in particular, has vastly underperformed on the offensive end, averaging just 11.8 points and shooting an awful 32.8 percent from the field. He has done well on the glass, averaging 10.4 boards per game.
23. While he’s stepped up defensively with his efforts against Oladipo in the last four games, J.R. Smith, like Love, has struggled on the offensive end. He is averaging 8.0 points, while shooting only 31.9 percent from the field, including an abysmal 28.1 percent from the 3-point line (9 of 32).
24. Love and Smith are far from the only Non-LeBrons to struggle offensively. Rodney Hood is averaging only 6.4 points, while shooting 20.0 percent from three (2 of 10), Jordan Clarkson is averaging 5.2 points and shooting 18.4 percent from long distance (2 of 9) and Jeff Green is scoring 4.2 points per game and shooting 27.3 percent from beyond the arc (3 of 11).
25. Speaking of James, has 61 career playoff games where he’s been the team’s leading scorer, rebounder, and assister. The next two closest? Tim Duncan and Larry Bird at 21.
26. Numbers to file and perhaps refer back to after tonight’s game — LeBron’s career highs in playoff games: Points, 49; Rebounds, 19; Assists, 14; Steals, six; Blocked shots, five; Turnovers, 10; Field-goal attempts, 38.
27. If the Cavaliers and Raptors close out their respective first-round series tonight, Game 1 of the conference semifinals will be Sunday at 1 p.m. in Toronto at Air Canada Centre.
28. Hopefully, signifying absolutely nothing, tonight’s referees are Marc Davis, Jason Phillips and Sean Wright.
29. Cavaliers will be in their traditional wine road jerseys tonight. Pacers will be in gold.
30. James, whose teams have won 11 consecutive games in closeout situations with the Cavaliers having won 13 in a row, realizes tonight will be the most difficult game in the series, to date.
31. “That team never stops; that team never stops,” James said of the Pacers. “It’s going to be even tougher (tonight).”
32. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have installed the Pacers as 1.5-point favorites for tonight’s game, with an over-under of 203. Against the spread this season, Cleveland is 33-53-1, while Indiana is 61-36-0.
33. And finally, this will mark the third consecutive game to end this drivel with a prediction, and in the truest sense that a blind squirrel does indeed find a nut every great once in awhile, we’re 2-0. Tonight? Pacers make their last stand and prevail, forcing a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday at The Q.