Cleveland Cavaliers (36-15) 132
Indiana Pacers (29-23) 117
The Cleveland Cavaliers were in Indiana Wednesday to play the Pacers, in what was the third game of their four-game road trip. It’s been an interesting road trip for sure. After a mildly disastrous January which saw the team go 7-8, this road trip was looming as a potential problem. Playing in Washington DC where the Wizards had won 17 straight (and who had won seven straight overall) and then playing a Pacers team on a seven-game winning streak, this trip could have been a problem.
But when the calendar flipped to February, so too did the Cavaliers’ fortunes flip. In beating the Wizards and Pacers in back to back games, they became the first team in NBA history to snap seven-game win streaks in consecutive games.
The Pacers came out blazing hot and the Cavs defense was out of sorts, allowing the Pacers to open a double-digit lead early. Indiana eventually opened a 15-point lead in the first quarter and the game looked like it might turn into another frustrating road game for Cleveland. But after trailing by 11 at the end of the first, Cleveland started chipping away in the second quarter before completely turning the game around in the third quarter.
Kyle Korver put on a three-point shooting demonstration. With Kyrie Irving going 0-5 from three and Kevin Love just 1-7 from three, the Cavaliers needed to find some outside shooting from somewhere and Korver was ready to answer the call. The Pacers put together a bit of a run in the fourth quarter to climb back within seven, but then Korver started unleashing threes to break the game back open and put the Pacers away.
With the Cavaliers finishing this road trip Thursday in Oklahoma City, it was important for the Cavaliers to win this one. With the Thunder game being the tail end of a back-to-back, it’s a likely night off for LeBron. Winning this game will make it easier to give guys rest against the Thunder should Ty Lue choose to do so.
As it stands, the Cavaliers are 4-0 in February and January feels like it was a different season. Winners of six of their last seven, Cleveland now will try to finish off this last stretch before the All-Star break strong.
Time for some numbers:
- 60.9% – In the first quarter, the Indiana Pacers shot 60.9 percent from the field. 14-23 overall and 5-8 from three, the Pacers were scorching hot out the gate. A combination of a few defensive breakdowns on the Cavs’ part and hot shooting on the Pacers’ part created a nightmare start for Cleveland. In the blink of an eye, the Pacers had a 15-point lead and the game felt a little out of hand. For the Cavaliers to get back into the game and get a win, they were going to have to step up on defense.
- 34.8% – And that’s exactly what the Cavaliers did. After letting the Pacers shoot 55 percent from the field in the first half, Cleveland stepped up the defense in a big-time way in the third quarter, holding the Pacers to just 34.8 percent on 8-of-23 shooting. Falling behind by 15 early in a game is tough, but the Cavaliers outscored the Pacers 40-18 in the third to completely flip this game on its end.
- 8 – It was a rough shooting night from outside the three-point line for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but Kyle Korver had a breakout three-point shooting night for Cleveland. Korver made eight of his nine attempts from long range as he moved into 7th place on the all-time list of made three-pointers. Overall Korver hit 10-of-12 from the field and finished with 29 points as he continues to get more comfortable with the Cavaliers offense.
- +1 and +2 – At halftime, the Cavaliers were being outrebounded by 11 (25 to 14) and were being outscored in the paint by six (16 to 10). If the Cavaliers were going to win this game, they needed to cut into those margins. They did that and then some. Cleveland ended up +1 in rebounding (39 to 38) and +2 in points in the paint (30 to 28). Perhaps no two stats better demonstrate the difference between the two halves of this game than those numbers. In the second half, the Cavaliers defense was much improved and their energy in chasing down rebounds was vastly improved. Scoring 40 points in the third was huge, obviously, but holding the Pacers to just 18 points was what really turned this game around.
- 23 – Kyle Korver wasn’t the only player on fire from deep in this game. Former Cavalier CJ Miles was phenomenal in this game hitting on six of nine from three-point range and finishing with 23 points. One of the more beloved Cavaliers from a bygone era that now seems like an eternity ago, Mas Fresco always seems to save his best for facing off with the Cavs and tonight was no exception. Just an excellent offensive night for Miles.
- 29 – It’s been a bit of a tough shooting stretch for Kyrie Irving the last couple games. Despite not shooting well from long-range in this one, Kyrie still finished 12 of 22 from the field and finished tied with Korver for a game-high 29 points. Kyrie also had seven assists and two steals against three turnovers. Kyrie really got things going for the team in the third quarter where Irving had nine points and three assists and was really instrumental in getting the offense going.
These wins against the Wizards and Pacers have been big for a Cleveland team that seems to have things back on the right track. Going up against the #4 and #6 teams in the East, respectively, on the road with each team on seven-game win streaks, there would have been no shame in just splitting the pair. But to go out and fight for these wins is a good sign for the wine and gold. With a winning record for this road trip already locked up, the team will now head to Oklahoma City where they will face a Thunder team looking to avenge Cleveland’s 107-91 win over the Thunder last week.