After a back and forth three quarters, the Indiana Pacers closed strong against the Cleveland Cavaliers, outscoring Cleveland 14-5 in the final 4:17, a nice change of pace given Indiana’s struggles late in games of late. T.J. Warren was automatic late, scoring six straight points on jumpers to push their lead to seven and after a Kevin Love three, Myles Turner stepped in to sink the dagger from beyond the arc, again set up by Domantas Sabonis.
Up until that final run, the Pacers were unable to seize control against the Cavs, getting rocked in transition and in the paint. Indiana kept it close, but neither team was able to build a lead beyond six points until Turner’s dagger three. For the game, Cleveland scored 64 points in the paint and outscored Indiana 22-10 in the fast break.
The Pacers did tighten things up inside in the fourth quarter, however, allowing just 10 points. Andre Drummond was a walking layup line in the first half, going perfect in the paint. After halftime, the Pacers switched the matchup from Turner to Sabonis, which worked at a much higher rate, as Drummond went 6-11 in the paint after halftime.
Another switch the Pacers made that had resounding success tonight was simply not playing the second unit. The Pacers shot 54% as a team, but the second unit was 5-17 for 14 points. Nine of those points came from Doug McDermott, but so too did a bench higher three turnovers.
The second unit accounted for over half of Indiana’s turnovers, which helped fuel Cleveland’s fast break opportunities. The Cavaliers read passes well, and the lack of purpose really hurt the bench’s passing game. Attempts to contain Drummond in the first half didn’t go well, as JaKarr Sampson picked up two fouls in two minutes late in the second quarter.
Due to the general struggles off the bench, the starters picked up the slack, all reaching double figures to secure the win. Turner was the lone starter to not shoot over 50%, but did complete his third straight double double with the dagger three. Turner finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, leading the Pacers with four blocks.
While Turner secured the win, the Pacers were well on their way thanks to the efforts of Warren. Warren had a game high 30 points, scoring no less than six in each quarter. He shot 14-20 from the field, interestingly doing much of his work at the rim until the final stretch in which he hit three consecutive jumpers.
Warren also tied his career high with six assists on a night when Indiana as a team reached 30. Sabonis led the way with nine of those, again falling an assist shy of a triple double. He had 18 points and 13 rebounds, joining Turner with three on the offensive glass. Malcolm Brogdon had eight assists himself, dishing five of those to Warren in the second and third quarters. Brogdon also had 22 points, his first 20-point game since February 5.
Victor Oladipo scored a season high 19 points in the win, loading up again in the third quarter to help the Pacers keep pace against a Cavaliers team playing with confidence. In the 12 minutes bookending the half, Oladipo had 15, shooting 6-10 with a pair of threes. Oladipo also had a team best three steals (joining Justin Holiday) and picked up another charge, forcing a turnover on a freight train fast break from Drummond.
After starting the month of February on a six game skid, the Pacers manage to salvage the month the best they can, winning five of their last six to finish 5-7 on the month. They also keep pace with Miami and Philadelphia, who of course have gotten back to winning just as the Pacers have.
Indiana also starts their five game road trip with a win, improving to 2-1 in the season series with the Cavs. They’ll head southwest to face the San Antonio Spurs for the first time this season. The Spurs are 25-33 on the year, but are a winning team at home. With a regular season finale against Milwaukee to follow, the Pacers will be in need of a win against the Spurs on Monday.