As the annual awards are getting lined up to be given out with the season coming to a close, the Cleveland Cavaliers happen to be the front runners for The Best Impression of the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17 after their performance tonight. The Cavs opted to rest instead of play for a meaningless win, as LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, and Mo Williams all enjoyed the game as fans.
J.J. Hickson and the Cavs made every effort to make up for their lack of go to player, fighting for every loose ball, and forcing turnovers as the Pacers clawed their way to a lead at the end of the first quarter, led by Danny Granger's ten points, as both teams put together runs to keep the game close, and push the game into their favor.
The runs continued in the second quarter, as Sebastian Telfair hit the first ten points of the second quarter for Cleveland. The Cavaliers pushed a 12-5 run late in the second quarter to take a tight lead into the half. The Pacers committed nine first half turnovers to Cleveland's two, which helped cancel out Indiana's great shooting in the first half.
The Pacers cut back on their turnovers in the third as Cleveland began to commit them at a much higher pace. Regardless, the Pacers weren't able to take advantage of that help as the game remained close through a Delonte West ejection and a Josh McRoberts poster dunk.
The quality of play improved dramatically in the second half, from a glorified pick up game to something almost worth watching. The fourth quarter took the tight Cleveland lead and really pushed both teams to make plays. In a game of runs, Cleveland seemed to finally put the stamp on the game after Jawad Williams hit a three to cap a 13-2 run that put the Cavs on top by six, the largest lead by either team.
After a timeout, Mike Dunleavy put together the game saving shot, a four point play that cut the six point lead back down to two. After flirting with the score on both ends, Brandon Rush and Danny Granger put the Pacers up for good. Granger closed out the game with style, scoring nine points in the final 90 seconds to give the Pacers their 31st win of the year.
Seeing what lies beyond the jump provides you the insight of highlights and lowlights of the game:
- I wasn't a fan of this game in the first half. Indiana played down to the remaining Cavs players, and the Cavs, despite all their hustle, didn't put together a stellar effort themselves. I was contemplating that if this were the last basketball tape remaining and this game was all that could save the sport, I was going to let basketball die, but the quality of play picked up for both teams down the stretch, and it turned into a pretty serviceable late season game. Kudos.
- Despite my opinion on the quality of the game early, it certainly was a competitive one. The game ended with 19 ties and 31 lead changes. Neither team led by more than six points, and neither team was able to lay the hammer down. The Pacers finally put the game away as Granger did a great job of icing it, but it was lining up to be one of those classic "last team to have it wins it" type games.
- The Cavaliers ruled the offensive glass, winning the battle 13-7. The real interesting thing is Jim O'Brien's lineup as the game wound down. With Anderson Varejao and Cleveland's overall size taking advantage inside, Obie opted to sit Roy Hibbert and Josh McRoberts down the stretch, a decision that nearly cost the team the win. Roy had a very quiet, but a fairly productive night, and Josh's energy could've been a nice counter to Varejao's constant overflow of energy. Obie didn't quite see things that way.
- Mike Dunleavy may have crossed over to the "Other Side" earlier this year, but the powers that be decided his work on this earth was not Dun (no more puns, I promise), as he's been putting together a nice string of games lately, shooting a solid .462 in his last nine. To lay the victory at his feet may not be a big stretch. The four point play was huge in all sorts of ways.
- Sebastian Telfair will be receiving a plaque in the mail at some point commemorating his Season High in Points Coming Against the Indiana Pacers, as he finished with 21. I like to joke that any great game against Golden State should hold little weight due to the style of play, but that may need to be extended to Indiana as well, given the frequency this seems to happen.
- The box score might suggest A.J. Price had a very quiet game, but the rookie made a number of very loud plays, both good and bad, from timely steals leading to Josh McRoberts vintage dunks to overthrowing teammates. He was visibly frustrated with his game tonight, which could be a nice positive for him if he channels that frustration in a good way.
- All five Pacers starters ended in double figures, led by Granger's 36, but Brandon Rush put up a nod worthy 16 (despite whiffing on a couple of shots), and Earl Watson had his second double double of the season, finishing with 16 points and 10 assists.
Ultimately, while the game means very little in the standings, it's a nice win for the blue and gold to take home. Road wins have been rare this year, and the Pacers got to snap a 10 game losing streak in Cleveland, even if Danny Granger was the best player on the floor in a game involving LeBron James's team. The Pacers improve to 10-3 in their last 13, and have a great chance to avoid 50 losses if they keep up their winning ways. The New Jersey Nets are up next, a surprisingly hot team in their own right, as the Pacers look to sweep the season series against them.