After piecing together their best first quarter of the season, the Indiana Pacers appeared to fast-track themselves into a comfortable win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers blasted the Cavaliers 38-16 in the opening quarter, shooting over 70% and forcing Cleveland into eight turnovers, leading to 13 points for the Pacers.
In fact, Indiana was so effective in forcing turnovers, it opened up feasting opportunities for Bojan Bogdanovic, who got the easiest buckets of the season in transition. Bogdanovic had 14 points in the first quarter on 5-5 shooting, spending a good deal of his time beating the Cavaliers back off of turnovers, getting three baskets in transition, two as outlets.
However, a foul with 0.5 seconds remaining in the quarter granted Cleveland their 15th and 16th points of the quarter, cutting a 24-point lead to 22, a lead that would not dwindle much, but would be tough to build upon in the second quarter. They led by as many as 26, but it was trimmed to 20 at the end of the half, and almost ominously, the Pacers had lost the second quarter 27-25.
A quick start out of the half pushed it back to 26, but Indiana was being forced to now match points with Cleveland, who began hitting threes at a high rate. As the third quarter reached its later stages, the Cavs slowly but surely began to chip away at the lead, bringing it to within 20, then to with 15, then wrapping up the quarter at the rim to cut the deficit to just 13 heading into the fourth.
In that third, the Pacers allowed 36, forcing Nate McMillan to use two timeouts in a a two minute stretch that didn’t appear to offer much resistance in slowing down Cleveland’s offense. The Pacers had just three stops the entire third quarter while also allowing the Cavs to score on their final possession of all three quarters, giving them six extra points.
Things didn’t get much better for the Pacers defense in the fourth. The Cavaliers managed to bring the game within single digits twice in the first six minutes and though that’s something that happened, each time, Indiana appeared to right themselves enough, pushing the lead back out to 14 each time.
Unfortunately, they were never able to push it beyond that, in part due to bad shot selection. Up 11 with 4:17 left, Victor Oladipo missed two threes and committed two fouls. On the night, Oladipo, eventually setting up Cedi Osman to again bring the Cavs to nine down. Missed shots continued to pile up as the lead was cut to five.
A timely and-one by Thaddeus Young made it eight, but it proved short lived as Osman hit a big three to make it a 113-108 Pacers lead. Though Oladipo had struggled much of the night, he came through late, scoring five straight Pacers points as part of his 17, including a big three off of an offensive rebound with 1:06 left to again make it an eight point game.
That proved to be enough as Indiana managed to hold on late for the 123-115 win, but it proved to be anything but easy, something they were surely hoping for on the first night of a back-to-back. When all was said and done, the Cavaliers had outshot the Pacers, hitting more threes and free throws.
Cleveland scored 72 second half points to put themselves back in the game late, taking full advantage of Myles Turner missing his second game with a sore shoulder. The Pacers managed to come out on top due to turnovers, winning the turnover battle 16-6 and outscoring the Cavaliers 22-13 in points off turnovers, but beyond that, it proved a difficult go when the Pacers lost the last three quarters 99-85.
Part of that can fall on the bench for the second straight game for failing to keep pace with the opposing second unit, allowing Jordan Clarkson to score 26 points and only getting one double figure scorer in Cory Joseph, who had 11. Joseph was a big lift from three point range, hitting 3-5 on a night when the Pacers shot 10-26 overall. He and Doug McDermott were the only bench players to hit a three on 12 attempts.
Tyreke Evans continued to struggle with just five on 2-7 shooting, but McMillan expanded the rotation to add in time for T.J. Leaf, scoring nine points on 4-5 shooting. Leaf showcased some nice athleticism on a dunk and provided some life. Kyle O’Quinn had just two points and two rebounds in his second game as part of the rotation, failing to match his block output from Sunday’s game.
That again left the starters with the bulk of the heavy lifting with four of the five starters finishing in double figures, led by Thaddeus Young with 26. Young’s offense was key early in the third quarter when he went an impressive 3-3 from three point range as part of his 11 third quarter points. Each three was forced to come in response to a Cavaliers three as the Pacers waited for the defense to come around, despite it never doing so.
Bogdanovic was the spark for the Pacers offense out of the gate with his 14 in the first, finishing with 23 on the night. He and Domantas Sabonis had 22 in the first quarter, with Sabonis finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds. Darren Collison made most of his impact in the first quarter as well, coming up with four steals, leading to three fast break buckets as part of his nine assist game.
Whether the Pacers got complacent or just failed to recognize and adjust to the improved effort of the Cavaliers after the first quarter, they put themselves in a difficult situation by needing their starters late to close out the win. That included 30-minute nights from every starter sans Collison, setting up a back-to-back showcase against the Boston Celtics with a little extra mileage than they surely had hoped they’d need.
That said, the Pacers, who are 4-1 on the second night of back-to-backs, have not had a whole lot of extra rest heading into these games, though they are 1-1 in games where the majority of starters have had to play 30+ minutes in this game. The one win came leading up their first matchup of the year against the Celtics, but Boston, much like the Pacers, have greatly improved since their first meeting, setting up a very difficult road test tomorrow night.