It wasn’t quite the dominate performance the Indiana Pacers had their last two outings, but it was more than enough to extend their winning streak to five games against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers led by double figures most of the night, but weren’t able to push the game completely out of reach, simply taking care of business for the victory tonight.
The closest the Cavs came in the second half to making a real game of it was late in the third quarter. After falling behind by 18, Cleveland used a 7-0 run to trim it to just 11. They had the ball with a chance to make it a single figure game after an Indiana miss, but Myles Turner met Ante Zizic for a block that sent Darren Collison the other way, kickstarting a 5-0 run that halted Cleveland’s momentum cold.
The Cavaliers did keep the game under that 15 point gap for a while beyond that, but that block felt like it was the declaration that the Pacers weren’t going to let another game against Cleveland slip away from their grasps as it did in December. The block also held extra significance as it was Turner’s third of the night, announcing his return after a scary moment earlier in the quarter.
Turner was tremendous from the tip, scoring 12 points in the first quarter with a pair of threes. He finished with 14 and eight rebounds to go with the three blocks, but early in the third, he came down awkwardly after blocking Marquese Chriss’s dunk attempt, falling to the ground holding his knee.
He walked towards the locker room under his own power and returned to the game later in the quarter with a sore knee, alleviating the tense thoughts of a worst case scenario injury for the big fella. Turner was one of five Pacers in double figures, led by Bojan Bogdanovic with 23 points.
Bogdanovic hit three threes, making it the fifth straight game he’s hit at least that many. That scoring burst has been huge in turning the tides on Indiana’s season after falling into a pit of despair with their four straight losses. Collison provided excellent support as a scorer, finishing with 18, both shooting above 50% on the night.
Collison also had nine assists, dishing eight of the nine to just three players in Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, and Domantas Sabonis. Indiana as a team had 31 on 45 field goals, which also helped their tepid three point shooting finish 9-26. The timely threes were key given the Cavs themselves had 16 on the night (though to be fair, a few of those came in the closing moments of the game) and helped on a night when Indiana wasn’t at their best in capitalizing off of Cleveland’s mistakes.
Indiana won both the battle in points off turnovers and in the fast break, but more in preventing Cleveland from capitalizing rather than Indiana just getting out and running. They won 14-8 in points off turnovers and 16-9 in fast break points, but Indiana’s offense was sharp enough that it didn’t matter much. Their ball movement not only opened up the three point shot just enough but it helped them inside, scoring 54 points in the paint and shooting 53.6% as a team.
The bench in particular contributed to the excellent shooting, the trio of Sabonis, T.J. Leaf, and Cory Joseph shooting a combined 14-17, including a perfect 4-4 showing from Leaf in the second quarter. Sabonis finished with a 13 point, 10 rebound double double, but it was Joseph that really led the way for bench, finishing one rebound shy of having a 10/10/10 triple double, but still had Pacers career best in assists.
Joseph was 5-7 shooting on the night, his two misses coming on threes. Even during his recent shooting slump, he has done a tremendous job finding himself in the right place for buckets at the end of quarters and tonight was no exception, hitting the final shots of the first and third quarters. In general, Joseph was just in the right place all night; the ball seemed to find him no matter where he was, be it on a rebound or in 50/50 plays.
The win keeps Indiana in good position in third place in the East, improving them to 3-0 in their current six game home stand. Tonight also marked their 21st home win of the season, giving them a winning home record for the 30th consecutive season. They have an opportunity to build on their 21-7 home record with a pair at Bankers Life Fieldhouse before the All-Star Break, starting with the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.