A scorching start finished in lukewarm fashion as the Indiana Pacers wrapped up their exhibition series against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a second straight loss. The Pacers opened up with six threes in the opening five minutes, jumping ahead 26-6. The second unit struggled to find any offense, however, allowing the Cavs to storm back, closing the gap to within three after one.
The game would go back and forth the rest of the way, with Cleveland using a 17-4 run late in the fourth to close out the win after the Pacers themselves had moved ahead by five on their own 21-8 run. For the game, the Pacers had excellent stretches of three point shooting, finishing with 17 on 40 attempts. They also had a much better outing in terms of ball control, winning the turnover battle by 11 (committing just 12) and outscoring the Cavs 33-16.
The difference came at the free throw line, however. The Cavaliers lived at the line, outscoring the Pacers by 23 points. The Pacers had just 12 attempts and missed five of those. They weren’t able to offset that gap with a huge points in the paint advantage, edging the Cavaliers by two.
The Pacers weren’t without attempts inside, however. Domantas Sabonis lived inside with success, but as a team, they were far too reckless in attempting to get to the line as opposed to simply putting the ball in the basket. The third quarter had a lot of empty possessions where players weren’t getting good looks at layups or shots in the paint, but also weren’t getting fouled either.
Sabonis led the way for the Pacers with 18 points and nine rebounds, again scoring all of his baskets in the paint. In two preseason games, Sabonis has taken just one mid-range jumper. Those shots have floated out to the three point arc, where he’s 0-5 in exhibition play. Malcolm Brogdon, meanwhile, continues to shoot very well from deep, hitting three more as part of his 11 points.
Brogdon hit two of those in the opening stretch, joined by a pair from Justin Holiday, who got the start with Myles Turner missing the game due to illness, and one each from Victor Oladipo and Aaron Holiday. The Holidays were on point all night, combining for 29 points and shooting 7-10 from deep. For Aaron, this was a much more involved game after looking tentative in shooting in the first game.
Oladipo meanwhile finished with nine on 2-11 shooting, both of those makes coming from deep. Misses didn’t stop Oladipo from attacking the rim, including going for a big dunk attempt that Andre Drummond caught for a block. Oladipo’s success in the game came on the defensive end, drawing fouls and creating havoc, looking as good as he has on that side of the floor since his return from injury.
Off the bench, Kelan Martin was moved up in the rotation, joining the first players off the bench as he finished with five. Edmond Sumner had a much better game, leading the bench with 11 points. He picked up a nice block late, joining Jalen Lecque, making his preseason debut, with the only two blocks of the night for Indiana.
The fourth quarter lineup was a small one by Nate Bjorkgren, running out Martin as the center. JaKarr Sampson would come in to heft up the lineup a bit, but after he was ejected for a back-and-forth with Isaac Okoro, it shrunk the lineup once again. It’s no surprise the Pacers struggled to contain Cleveland at that point, all but forcing the offense to carry the defense. When shots stopped falling, it made things far too easy for the Cavaliers to close out the game.
There were nice stretches from the young guys however, including Cassius Stanley in that mix, as Bjorkgren was forced into such a lineup, hoping of course that that particular lineup won’t be needed in a regular season game. Injuries weren’t only a problem leading into the game, but also in it as Doug McDermott left the game after three minutes, knocking knees and walking back to the locker room.
Indiana will wrap up the exhibition portion of the schedule on Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers, playing their first game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since March 10. At that point, the Pacers will look for better injury news, be it physical wellness with Turner, or with Goga Bitadze’s ankle after he was a game time scratch tonight.