2 best, 2 worst matchups for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs

As the Cleveland Cavaliers' playoff matchup chances linger, their best chance to win in the first round may be heavily influenced by the last couple games of the regular season.
Cleveland Cavaliers v Indiana Pacers
Cleveland Cavaliers v Indiana Pacers / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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The Eastern Conference is in the midst of an extremely tight playoff race. With only a few days left in the regular season, there is only a five-game difference between the second seed and the eighth seed. Though the Cleveland Cavaliers seemingly had the second seed locked up earlier in the year, they are now in the midst of the messy season finale.

The Milwaukee Bucks sit at second with a 49-31 record, and the Miami Heat with a record of 44-36 are fighting to break away from the eight seed. The Cavaliers currently sit at the fourth seed with a record of 47-33, one game ahead of the fifth-seed Orlando Magic. With all of this congestion, the Cavaliers could end up with home court advantage in the first round, or they could end up in the play-in tournament and no guaranteed spot in the playoffs. These potential major shifts in seeding have Cavs with many different potential first round matchups.

As always, the likelihood to win an NBA playoff series is not just the better team outright. Matchups, strategies and health luck can sway the momentum in one team's favor more than the other throughout the seven-game series. Let’s dive into what teams the Cavaliers should and should not want to see.

The Cavaliers should target the Indiana Pacers

The Cavaliers should welcome a matchup with the Indiana Pacers. Currently, the Pacers have the sixth seed and are losing a tie-breaker with the fifth seed Orlando Magic. Considering the circumstances, it is very possible the Cavaliers could play the Pacers in the first round either as the four-five or three-six matchup if either team climbs up the standings while the other stays put.

This would be a good matchup for the Cavaliers due to the Indiana Pacers youth and lack of playoff experience. This iteration of the Pacers has not played in the playoffs yet, lending the Cavs to be in a similar position to the New York Knicks last year when Cleveland lost. Last season, Indy finished 11th in the East, missing the Play-In Tournament and postseason all together. It is always good to go against a young and inexperienced team in the postseason to build momentum going into the conference semifinals.

Teams rarely make it far in the playoffs in their first run. This was on full display last year in the Cavs and Knicks series. Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and many other Cavs hadn’t played in the playoffs yet, and the Knicks feasted on our inexperience and raised the intensity to levels the young Cavaliers struggled to match.

The Indiana Pacers personnel is nothing to fear, either. Their lone All-Star Tyrese Haliburton is only 24 years old and has no postseason experience under his belt. Their leading scorer, Pascal Siakam, is a former All-Star and NBA Champion. He was traded to the Pacers midseason, giving him limited time to find chemistry with his new teammates. Benedict Mathurin, their fourth-highest leading scorer, is also injured for the rest of the season. 

For the Cavaliers squad hoping to rebuild their reputation after last year's embarrassment, the Pacers offer a favorable matchup for the first round.