LeBron James had won 21 straight first-round games. He was 12-0 in his opening game of a postseason.
The Pacers snapped both streaks with a 98-90 Game 1 win over the Cavaliers yesterday.
But LeBron doesn’t sound worried.
Just because one improbable thing doesn’t mean another will. That type of thinking often leads to problems.
It can also instill confidence, though. Even unearned confidence can become self-fulfilling and lead to positive results.
But this is far from LeBron’s typical first-round challenge.
Indiana (48-34) has the best record of any of his first-round opponents, and the Cavs got such a tough matchup only because they went an underwhelming 50-32 and got the No. 4 seed – LeBron’s lowest seed in a decade. The Pacers (45-37) had a better expected record based on point difference – typically a better indicator of postseason success than actual record – than Cleveland (43-39). Led by Victor Oladipo, Indiana is tough and on a mission.
Yesterday’s result only makes it more difficult on the Cavaliers.
Teams that lost Game 1 of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series just 48% of the time. But that includes many more lopsided series. Though it’s a small sample, when the home team in a 4-5 series loses Game 1, it has won just 10% of best-of-seven series (1-of-10).
There are reasons to think Cleveland’s odds are far higher than 10%. Nos. 1-10: LeBron James. The Cavs have also played better than the Pacers with their playoff rotations on the court.
But no matter what message LeBron is trying to convey now or what he did in the past, beating Indiana is a real challenge.