Cleveland Cavaliers Playoff Scribbles: Not ready for intensity? Why? — Terry Pluto (photos)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Scribbles in my Cleveland Cavaliers notebook after their 98-80 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

1. Why did the Cavaliers look surprised by the physical play and aggressiveness of the Indiana Pacers. It’s how they played all season when they had a 48-34 record. They were one of the NBA’s pleasant surprises. And last year, the Cavs swept Indiana in four games. The Cavs largest margin of victory in those games was six points.

2. Coach Nate McMillan’s teams are playoff prepared. They aren’t intimidated by LeBron James. And if the Cavs don’t wake up to that fact, a first-round exit is possible.

3. James said: “They just played inspired basketball and took advantage of everything we wanted to try to do. They were more physical than us at the point of attack, and more precise with what they wanted to do.”

4. James also said Indiana “dictated tempo.” Everything James said about the game is correct. The question is … why? It wasn’t simply the Cavs poor outside shooting. They also were impatient on offense, not working the ball inside. Some of their bad habits on defense, such as being very slow to help defend the rim, appeared at the most destructive times.

5. The Cavs sounded as if they thought they did a respectable job against Victor Oladipo. Really? He scored 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting. He was hot from long range (6-of-9), and he did take some of those 3-pointers in fast-break situations. But there were other times when the Cavs switched. A big man such as Larry Nance Jr. or Kevin Love ended up on the 6-foot-4 guard. That set up drives to the basket for Oladipo.

6. Why not swarm Oladipo? Get the ball out of his hands. Make some of the other players beat you. The Pacers second-leading scorer in the regular season was Bojan Bogdanovic (14.3 points). He scored 15 in Sunday’s game, but shot only 5-of-17. Darren Collison can be a hot shooter, but he was only 2-of-9 for six points Sunday.

7. The point is Indiana’s best player set the tone, dominated the game at key points — and the Cavs didn’t consistently attack him defensively.

8. That’s said, I’ll never pick against James in any Eastern Conference playoff matchup this season. I find it hard to believe James will allow the Cavs to lose a series to Indiana. But I also know if James waits 10 minutes into the game to take his first shot — that is asking for trouble. That’s what he did Sunday.

9. James said he was passing the ball to open teammates: “Guys had great looks, they (the shots) just didn’t go down.”

10. The Cavs were a dismal 8-of-34 on 3-pointers. James was 0-of-4. J.R. Smith and Kevin Love combined for 6-of-12 … the rest of the team was 2-of-22.

11. Lue said the only real changes needed were “in the mindset.” That’s partly true. For example, Kevin Love needs to go inside more often to try to score. Defensively, the Cavs need to be more aggressive. But Lue can’t possibly believe the starting lineup of Jeff Green, Rodney Hood, George Hill, James and Love played well together.

12. There were a lot of questions about the Cavs having inexperienced players in their “first playoffs.” Among the 10 guys who played meaningful minutes, guess how many were in their “first” postseason? Two. One was Larry Nance who had a very good opener, scoring 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He also had five rebounds in 29 hustling minutes.

13. The other player was Jordan Clarkson, and he had the rookie nerves. He scored six points in 20 minutes, only 2-of-6 shooting. Usually instant offense off the bench, Clarkson seemed very passive.

14. Some in the media act as if Hood had never been in the playoffs before. He played 11 postseason games for Utah last season, averaging 8.9 points. Hood looked disengaged early in the game because he sometimes does that. It happened in Utah.

15. George Hill and Hood played together in the Utah backcourt last season. Hill has been in 84 postseason games. Jeff Green was in his 39th postseason game. So please, get off the “playoff inexperience” theme for the Cavs problems.

16. James led the NBA in total minutes played this season — 3,026. He mentioned being tired after Game 1, where he played 44 minutes. He said he was glad to have two days off. I wonder if playing James so much in the regular season (the first time in his career he played all 82 games) will cause some fatigue during the playoffs.

17. For the Cavs, James and Love need to lead the way. J.R. Smith was comfortable in the post-season bright lights, scoring 15 points off the bench — 6-of-11 shooting. I know Jose Calderon was only 0-of-3 shooting in nine minutes, but I want to see more of him. The team is more organized with him on the court.

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