After a stellar first half in which the Indiana Pacers skillfully maintained a double figure lead, the Cleveland Cavaliers scored the final five of half, using that as a springboard for a game winning third quarter. Cleveland outscored Indiana 40-18 in the third quarter. The Pacers shot 55% in the first half, but after making their first four baskets of the third, the Pacers made just four of their final 19.
The Pacers managed to bring the game to within single digits in the fourth after falling behind by 19, but the third quarter deficit proved too much as the Cavs closed out the win. The Pacers matched Cleveland every step of the way early, but the increased intensity (and shooting) of the Cavaliers proved too much when Indiana’s early success didn’t duplicate itself in the second half.
Cleveland’s second half was fueled by none other than Kyle Korver, who made five of his eight three pointers in the last two quarters, leading the way for the Cavaliers with 29 points. Teams can plan for Kyrie Irving to score 29 points and still believe they can win, but it becomes a different animal all together when Korver leads the charge on a night when the Cavs makes 16 three pointers.
Indiana’s seven game winning streak may have been snapped, but it wasn’t an entirely disappointing effort from the Pacers that led to the loss; they were simply unable to respond to a team that shifted into a championship level gear. Indiana had done a great job finding an extra gear themselves over the course of this winning streak, but were bowled over and frustrated throughout the second half due to the shot making and the officiating.
The Pacers had three 20-point scorers, led by C.J. Miles, who made a real effort to offset the Korver onslaught, hitting six threes of his own in scoring 23. However, the common trend on the night was that everyone on the Pacers came up just a little short in offsetting the play of the Cavs, to the point where a point-for-point stretch between Irving and Jeff Teague wound up favoring Irving.
Teague finished with 22 points and 14 assists, but unfortunately had just one assist in the final 18 minutes of the game, when Cleveland closed the third quarter on a 17-3 run that turned a two point deficit into a 15 point one. Paul George looked good in stretches with a 22 point, eight rebound, and six assist night, but couldn’t keep pace with LeBron James scoring 25 points and dishing nine assists. James managed to work his way to the free throw line with greater success than George.
The officiating in the second half was much maligned by the Pacers, which eventually led to a technical foul on Monta Ellis. Myles Turner, however, did a fantastic job bringing the free throw gap to a minimum in the fourth quarter, making all eight of his FT attempts as the Pacers pulled to within as few as seven points. Ellis led the bench with 13 points on 5-7 shooting, doing well around the basket, hitting a late three that can hopefully return some trust in his jumper, where he was 2-4.
The energy of Lavoy Allen early was a major boost in pushing Indiana up by as many as 15 early in the game, scoring six points and pulling in five rebounds (three offensive). Allen did as well a job as could be expected on Kevin Love, who finished with 14 points on 3-11 shooting, hitting just a single three pointer.
All in all, Indiana’s win streak had to end at some point. While disappointing they couldn’t have swept the home series against the Cavs, there are still positives to point at with this team’s overall direction. That direction will be tested again on Friday when the Pacers travel East to face the Washington Wizards in the nation’s capital. The Wizards also saw their seven game streak snapped by Cleveland and will be looking to stay on track themselves after a heartbreaking defeat on Monday.