Pacers Down Cavs For Huge East Win
The Indiana Pacers played their most complete game of the 2016-17 season, giving Al Jefferson and Co. their biggest win thus far over the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs were without LeBron James, who was resting on the second night of a back-to-back, but Indy stayed focused, stayed motivated and came out with a much-needed win.
“You can’t have a letdown assuming that the game is going to change or it’s going to be an easy night,” head coach Nate McMillan said of Lebron’s absence. “They are talented certainly with LeBron, but they’re talented without him.”
Slow starts have plagued the Pacers this season but they came out firing against the Cavs, scoring nine straight at one point to take a 13-7 lead with 6:57 left in the first quarter.
Big Al entered at the 3:27 mark of the first and was part of a second unit playing with Paul George that pushed the lead to 30-19 to end the quarter. Al contributed two points and a rebound during the stretch.
The game tightened up in the second as the Cavs used a 12-3 run to pull to within two at 33-35. After Indy responded to push the lead back to 11, the Cavs used an 8-0 run to get to 46-43 with 1:20 left in the half. In the Cavs highest-scoring quarter of the game, the Pacers were able to limit the damage and take a 50-45 lead into the half.
Smelling blood in the water, the Pacers continued to display a high level of intensity, pushing their lead to nine in the first 2:30 of the quarter. Displaying some of their best defensive rotations all season, Indy was able to withstand each time the Cavs threatened. Their lead shrunk to 66-62 with 4:21 left in the quarter, but the Pacers continued to show remarkable resiliency and pushed their lead to a game-high 12 at 80-68 to end the third.
The Cavs, who got over half their points from Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, were able to cut their deficit to six with 8:08 left to play. From there the teams traded baskets until Indy was able to stretch the lead to 10 with 5:26 to go. The Cavs never threatened after that, and the Pacers coasted to their first back-to-back wins of the season.
The Pacers were able to prove that Monday’s drubbing of the Orlando Magic was no fluke, holding the Cavs to 40 percent shooting from the field. They also forced the Cavs, who rank second in the league in three-point makes and fourth in attempts, to shoot 36 percent from beyond the arc. They gave up just four fast break points and dominated the paint, outscoring the Cavs by 20 down low along with 12 blocks.
“We’ve been listening to our coaches and been very receptive to each and every thing they’ve been able to teach us. We want to continue to do that through the course of the season. It’s made us better on defense, it’s made us a better team,” Thaddeus Young said after the game.
The Pacers remain home to face the Phoenix Suns on Friday. The Suns (3-9) come in on a three-game losing streak and are 3-7 in their last 10 games. With Tyson Chandler listed as out for the game, Alex Len should see increased minutes and be Al’s primary matchup. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. EDT.