Coming off of a big time win for against the Miami Heat this past Friday night, the Indiana Pacers get a chance to show their true colors against the true "Beast of the East" in the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. The teams split their four-game season series last season, 2-2, with each team winning on their home floor both times.
The Indiana Pacers have now won three straight after starting the season on a three-game losing streak. The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently on a five-game winning streak after losing on opening night to the Chicago Bulls.
Cleveland is obviously the class of the Eastern Conference and will be the team to beat come Spring 2016. Good news for the Pacers, their All-Star forward Paul George has himself and the entire team trending in the right direction. A solid performance for George and company coming against a Miami Heat team many think can challenge the aforementioned Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference crown.
George led the way with 36 points and 12 rebounds in a performance many Pacers fans have been waiting for. And now comes the matchup that was once a premiere matchup for NBA fans, LBJ and PG13, James and George will go toe-to-toe Sunday afternoon in Cleveland, Ohio.
Reports from early this morning are that the Pacers will be without Rodney Stuckey. Stuckey is the anchor coming off the Pacers bench and is more often than not a spark plug for a Pacers team that in recent past has struggled with production from the bench.
C.J. Miles will continue to sit out for the Pacers with a sore ankle. Mo Williams will still be the starter at point guard for the Cavaliers as Kyrie Irving is still nursing an injury. Williams has provided a spark and calming effect on a Cavaliers team that sometimes last season was a little dysfunctional with Irving running the show.
Coming into today's game, Paul George leads the Pacers in scoring (21.5 PPG) and rebounds (9.0 PPG), and will be looking forward to the showdown with LeBron James. The key piece for the Pacers today will be Monta Ellis.
Ellis, who was a key free agent signing for Larry Bird and the Pacers organization this past offseason, will be looking to get on track with his new team. He will have a matchup against a streaky J.R. Smith, and will look to take advantage of this matchup.
The Pacers need Ellis to get going and be the playmaker they know he can be. Coach Frank Vogel has made schematic changes within a few games this season to try and get Ellis going.
Against the Boston Celtics, Vogel took normal point guard, George Hill, off the ball and put it in Ellis' hands. The change proved to be a game changer as Ellis was able to make plays for the Pacers, distributing the ball to his teammates. Ellis, we all know, can score but can he make a difference in another fashion for the Pacers? At some point this season we'll find out, and it may be today.
Projected starters: Pacers- PG: George Hill, SG: Monta Ellis, SF: C.J. Miles, PF: Paul George, C: Ian Mahinmi. Cavaliers- PG: Mo Williams, SG: J.R. Smith, SF: LeBron James, PF: Kevin Love, C: Timofey Mozgov.
The Cavaliers will come into today's game as seven-point favorites with an over/under of 198.5. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 PM EST at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH.