It's win or go home for Cavs, Pacers
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- LeBron James maintains that "Game 7" are two of the greatest words in sports.
If this one Sunday in this first-round playoff series between the Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers doesn't go Cleveland's way, they could become two of the most cursed words in this town.
It starts with this: a loss for the Cavs could be the last game James ever plays in a Cleveland uniform.
"The thought of if we don't play well it will be my last game of the year, that will probably hit my mind, but I haven't thought about that," James said Friday, after the Pacers routed the Cavs 121-87 to force Game 7.
James can be a free agent at season's end. Though he's never said he intends to leave Cleveland again, at present it appears the Cavs' roster is in no shape to compete for championships as James heads into the twilight of his career.
James has never lost a first-round series. Dropping one now would not go far to erase any of James' doubts about the direction of this franchise.
His alleged wingman, Kevin Love, is averaging 11 points in this series and shooting 32.4 percent (22 of 68) in this series. No other Cavs player is averaging double figures.
The Pacers, meanwhile, beat Cleveland three of four in the regular season and scored the most lopsided win in the franchise's playoff history in Game 6 to force this last game. Victor Oladipo became the third Pacer to post a playoff triple double (28 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) in Game 6 and Domantas Sabonis is shooting 74.2 percent (26 of 35) over the last three games.
"Going back to Cleveland, we feel we got a chance," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. "We got to play better than we did even tonight to win that game. But we definitely feel we have a chance."
James is 4-2 all time in Game 7s. This is the first Game 7 at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs, who are 3-2 in Game 7s, last won one in the 2016 Finals against the Golden State Warriors. James, Love, JR Smith, and Tristan Thompson are the only players left on that team.
Last year, Rodney Hood played for a Utah Jazz team that beat the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7 of the first round to advance to a Western Conference semifinal.
"It's just the love of the game and wanting to be remembered," James said. "Win or go home. It's just that simple."
The Pacers are 3-5 in Game 7s and 2-5 on the road. Indiana is also trying to avoid being eliminated by a James team (Cavs, Heat) for the fifth time in the last seven seasons.
"The pressure is on both teams," McMillan said. "The loser goes home. So, for us, we take it one game at a time and we prepare ourselves for that next game. The next game is on the road. We understand the conditions we're playing in, but to say they feel more pressure than us? No. The losers go home. So there's pressure on both teams.
"We're not going to be satisfied with just going up there and playing a good game and losing it," McMillan continued. "We have an opportunity and we're going to go and try and take advantage of it."
Former Pacer and current Cavaliers point guard George Hill said he would try to play Sunday. He's missed the last three games with back spasms. Jose Calderon has started in his place.
Updated April 28, 2018