With the season winding down and wins at a premium for the Indiana Pacers, moral victories are the last thing they can afford to hang their hats on, but given their recent play, tonight's 95-92 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers showed many more promising signs than the previous three outings in Indiana's now four game losing streak. The Pacers did everything tonight except come away with the win, which frustrating, can hopefully lend positives in getting the team back on track for their final 14 games.
The Pacers trailed much of the first half and a flurry of points by Cleveland to start the third put them in a difficult situation, but George Hill led the charge in pushing Indiana not only back into the game, but over the top and into the lead. Both teams traded leads throughout the fourth quarter as Indiana looked for a counter to every LeBron James take, which James finishing with 29 points, scoring 10 straight Cleveland points late in the fourth.
Indiana jumped ahead 92-91 with two minutes remaining, falling back behind a point thanks to James, but the Pacers missed their next seven shots, including three layups that would have given them the lead. A big defensive stop in the game's final Cleveland possession went awry when Iman Shumpert came up with the long rebound, setting up J.R. Smith for Cleveland's only two free throws of the second half, sealing the win.
George Hill was the key to Indiana's second half surge, scoring 16 of his 24 points in the third quarter, taking both Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova to task. The play of Hill on the offensive end was fantastic, but so too was his play on Irving, limiting him to just 13 points on 4-16 shooting and four personal fouls. Hill has a bit of a history limiting the effectiveness of Irving, and did so tonight.
Roy Hibbert was also big late, scoring 20 points with eight rebounds. After getting shoved around early by Timofey Mozgov, Hibbert planted in, leading Indiana with four free throw attempts (the team shot 12-13) and going 8-13 from the field. Luis Scola provided Indiana a needed shot with 14 points and 11 rebounds, filling in for David West, who left the game early in the second half with illness.
The Pacers will host the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, in much need of a win after four straight losses has them on the outside looking in for the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Miami won, giving the Heat a two game advantage over Indiana for seventh, and Boston currently trails big in San Antonio in the second half, keeping Indiana in ninth for the time being, though a late tip for the Charlotte Hornets could push Indiana a half game out in 10th place by tomorrow morning.