LeBron James led two distinctly different Cleveland Cavaliers teams over this season to the Central Division title and the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers (50-32) parted ways with Kyrie Irving over the summer and dealt him to Boston in a deal that netted Isaiah Thomas, but they struggled to find consistency on the defensive end.
When Thomas was finally healthy and available, he was a poor fit with James, and Cleveland quickly pulled the plug on them playing together. They shipped Thomas to the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a flurry of deals at the trade deadline that brought Rodney Hood, George Hill, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson from Utah, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers, respectively.
Along with holdover Kevin Love, James and the Cavaliers played well enough to overtake the Pacers for the division title and claim home-court advantage for this round.
James is looking to reach the NBA Finals for the eighth straight year and his fourth in a row since returning to Cleveland.
Indiana (48-34) were expected to be rebuilding to a degree after trading a star of their own in Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder. While many lambasted the return the Pacers got in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis at the time of the deal, it turned out well for both parties.
Oladipo enjoyed a breakout season, averaging 23.1 points while being named an All-Star for the first time, and Sabonis is Indiana's top frontcourt option off the bench after nearly doubling his scoring average from his rookie season to 11.6 points while also pulling down 7.7 rebounds per contest.
The Pacers have had four of their last five postseasons end at the hands of James, including a four-game sweep in last season's first round.