For three quarters, the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers traded blows in an exciting, up and down game. The offensive display was impressive as neither team was willing to back down, with tough shots and big rebounds substituting for an inability for either team to get any stops.
Equally impressive was how both teams managed to adjust to the game flipping on a dime in the fourth quarter, as the fast-paced action came to a screeching halt with both teams going ice cold in the fourth. A 13-2 start for the Pacers proved to be the game’s only double figure lead, but that was not only up to both teams making shots, but Cleveland’s ability to stay alive by forcing stops in the fourth.
Likewise, the Pacers kept the game in their favor in the fourth with stops of their own, clinging to a three point lead as the game reached its final minute, and Victor Oladipo happened all over again.
Another huge Oladipo clutch shot helped push the Pacers up six with a minute remaining. Weathering ridiculous J.R. Smith threes and a ridiculous string of missed free throws, the Pacers managed to hold on to secure their first home win against a LeBron James led team since February 6, 2015.
Doing so against James was especially satisfying given how the Pacers bowed out in the postseason last year and given James’s extensive rest history in Indianapolis. James had 29 points on 12-22 shooting with 10 rebounds and eight assists, an awesome, yet predictable display that forced the Pacers to push beyond what James can and often does do (to them).
The win also snaps Cleveland’s 13-game winning streak, keeping the Cavs from setting a franchise record for consecutive wins, an enjoyable footnote to an exciting win. The Pacers pushed towards this win thanks in large part to rebounding in the second half, outscoring the Cavs 8-0 in the second half after losing the battle in the first 13-0.
The ability to get offensive rebounds really turned the game back into Indiana’s favor after falling behind by six at the half. The Pacers seemed content to surrender second chance opportunities to keep the Cavs from torching them in transition for nearly the entire first half, which worked well as Cleveland only ended up with four fast break points for the game, but they also adjusted on the fly to stay with their misses, picking up all 12 of their offensive boards in the game’s final 26 minutes.
No doubt part of that was due to the Pacers cooling down a bit from three point range. They shot incredibly well early, but had to fight as the shots fell with less frequency. They didn’t go up with any less frequency however, as the two teams combined for 75 three point attempts, the Pacers hitting 15 to Cleveland’s 11.
Oladipo was once again the catalyst to victory for the Pacers. He finished with 33 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, hitting six threes, including three in the third quarter where he scored 20 points to help Indiana to a 32-23 third quarter victory. About the only area in which Oladipo was not reliable was at the free throw line, where he was just 5-10.
The entire Pacers roster struggled with free throws, however, completing just 15 of their 24 attempts. It seemed they couldn’t both ends of a free throw, probably because Oladipo never did. Oladipo split all five of his trips, something that allowed the Cavs a free opportunity to stay alive.
Myles Turner offered up support for Oladipo with 15 points of his own, looking confident shooting the ball to go along with seven rebounds and three blocks. Thaddeus Young had 13 points and eight boards, five on the offensive end while Bojan Bogdanovic scored 10, struggling from three point range at 2-8.
Off the bench, there was some Lance Stephenson excitement as part of his seven and seven night, dishing four assists, and Domantas Sabonis led the Pacers with nine rebounds, nearing a double double with nine points. The bench was led by Cory Joseph, who picked up some extended minutes to score 12.
The Pacers at 15-11 are tied for fourth in the East with Milwaukee, which continues to be a very impressive start for a team that continues to show who they are through effort and energy. Before the season, it seemed like with the roster turnover and the questions regarding player roles that 30 wins might be a stretch, but here we are, halfway to the point in just 26 games.
Indiana also continues to take advantage of their current home court advantage. The Pacers have won now three straight, with all of them coming at home. They’ll have a day off, featuring a lot of Oladipo free throw practice, before continuing their six game home stand against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. The Pacers were whalloped by Denver twice last year, giving an extra bit of motivation to the players who have to share a wonderful London trip with a 28-point loss.