Before this postseason began, LeBron James stood as the most dominant player in Round One of the NBA Playoffs.

King of Round One

He entered Sunday with the highest ever winning percentage in Round 1 of the NBA playoffs at .872. His career record in the first round was 48-7, with seven sweeps in twelve playoff appearances. Since his second season with the Miami Heat in 2012, he’s won twenty-one consecutive first-round games. Since re-joining the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015, he’s reeled off twelve consecutive victories in the first round of the playoffs.

The last time he lost a first-round game was on May 9, 2012, when the Knicks beat the Heat in Game 4. Since then, LeBron’s teams swept their first-round opponents: the Bucks in 2013, the Bobcats in 2014, the Celtics in 2015, the Pistons in 2016 and the Pacers last season.

More impressively, LeBron James has never lost a Game 1 of any first-round series that he’s ever played. That goes all the way back to 2006 when he first made his playoff debut. We’re in 2018 now so entering the 2018 playoffs, LeBron James had an unblemished record of 12-0.

King’s First Time

So given that LeBron had a near immaculate record in the first round of the playoffs and was undefeated in first round game 1’s plus the fact that his Cavs swept the Indiana Pacers during last season’s first round, many thought that Sunday’s Game 1 between the 4th seeded Cleveland Cavaliers and the 5th placed Indiana Pacers would have an all too familiar result. They were so wrong.

The Indiana Pacers stunned the Cleveland Cavaliers 98-80 on Sunday in, putting an end to James’ unbeaten Game 1 streak and erasing his aura of invincibility in Round 1 of the playoffs. The Cavaliers didn’t just lose Game 1, they were dominated from start to finish and were blown out of their home court.

The Pacers built a 19 point lead at the end of the first quarter and led by as high as 23 in the third period. Cleveland cut down the deficit to seven points in the final stanza but the Pacers broke the game wide open again with timely three-point baskets. When the final horn sounded, King James suffered his first loss in Round 1 of the playoffs since Taylor Swift’s ‘We are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ became #1 on the music charts.

Adding Fuel To Fire

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 32 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 1 block He shot 11-19 from the floor including 6-9 from behind the three-point line in 37 minutes of solid playoff action. Oladipo is the favorite to win this year’s Most Improved Player of the Year award, considering he’s metamorphosed into an All-Star player this season after being a role player in his entire NBA career.

Interestingly, this is the same Victor Oladipo whom Cavs owner Dan Gilbert belittled when the Indiana Pacers got him from the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Paul George trade. After the game, Oladipo said Gilbert’s remarks only added fuel to the fire. But while Oladipo primarily burned the Cavs, there were signs that this beat down was coming.

In LeBron’s second tour of duty with the Cavs, this was the first playoff game he played without Kyrie Irving. Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics during the offseason. The Cavs overhauled their roster at this year’s trade deadline, trading half of their team and adding young players with little or no playoff experience.

Just One Game

Good thing for the Cavs, it was just one game and the first round of the playoffs is a seven-game series. Game 2 is scheduled on April 19, 2018, at 7:00 AM CT in Cleveland. Despite suffering a one-sided loss, the Cavaliers are still -500 favorites to beat the Pacers who came back at +375.

It’s hard to imagine the Cavs losing two in a row at home in the playoffs, especially with LeBon going ‘zero dark thirty- 23 mode’ in the playoffs. King James recorded his 20th career playoff triple-double in Game 1 but as we saw on Sunday, he cannot do it alone. Cleveland’s other four starters combined for just 25 points in Game 1. They need more output from those guys in Game 2.

The Pacers also beat the Cavs 3-1 in their regular season series. Among the teams with home court advantage in this year’s playoffs, only the Cavs had a losing regular season record against their first-round opponent. Although the Cavs swept the Pacers in last year’s playoffs, Nate McMillan’s team this season is more balanced and Oladipo was still in OKC last year.

Nothing Compared To 1-3

But the Cavs have LeBron James and it’s hard to bet against the team that has the best player in the series. What more for a team with the best player on the planet?

LeBron James didn’t sound worried about losing Game 1 to the Pacers, after all, he’s been down this road before, even worse. James downplayed any cause for concern by saying he’s been down 1-3 before. However, it’s not about LeBron James. He is a given in this series as he is in every game. This is not the same team that beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. They have far less experience than that title-winning team.

But perhaps with their young players’ first playoff game jitters off their backs, the Cavs can refocus on the task at hand. Cleveland shot just 30-78 ( 38.5% ) from the floor in Game 1. They missed eight out of 20 free throws and made just eight out of 34 ( .235 ) three-pointers. During the regular season, they shot .476 from the field, .378 from behind the three-point line and .779 from the foul line. The law of averages is going to catch up with the other guys in Game 2.

We’re picking the Cleveland Cavaliers to bounce back and win Game 2 to tie the series.

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