Three quarters of quality basketball proved for naught as the Cleveland Cavaliers came alive in the fourth, closing out the Indiana Pacers with a purpose. Donovan Mitchell had 18 of his 41 points in the fourth in what would be Cleveland’s only quarter win of the night. His shotmaking proved the difference though as Indiana languished in the fourth, shooting 7-19.
Indiana led 110-105 midway through the fourth after the Cavaliers had cut it to two. Bennedict Mathurin stepped into a big time three and Aaron Nesmith had a strong layup at the basket. At that moment, Nesmith was assessed a technical foul for calling for an and-one on the layup, giving Cleveland a game-swinging four-point play.
dialing it up from deep.— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 17, 2022
Bennedict Mathurin is up to 22 points. pic.twitter.com/BE58YGjVVP
Cleveland proceeded to outscore Indiana 13-2 down the stretch as the Pacers wouldn’t hit another field goal the rest of the game, missing their last seven shots. It was a rare fourth quarter collapse for the Pacers, who heading into the fourth had controlled the game nearly the entire way.
Indiana won each of the first three quarters, scoring 30+ in each of them go to ahead by 11. Similar to their games against Golden State this season, the Pacers had responses locked and loaded all night, which no doubt adds a sour element to this particular loss. Indiana had even played extremely well on the glass, with Jalen Smith returning to the starting lineup against Cleveland’s double big starters.
Even that betrayed Indiana somewhat in the fourth, with Smith sitting in favor of Nesmith, allowing two offensive boards in the quarter that wound up leading to four second chance points for Cleveland, doubling their total on the night. That wasn’t even particularly egregious by recent standards despite the timing.
For the most part, Indiana did everything right except hit shots down the stretch or limit Mitchell late, which against a good team, is usually all it takes. Their home run approach late in the game took them out of it in particular, totaling just seven shots in the paint after spending a large portion of the game in control, scoring 62 points for the game.
That paint advantage helped Mathurin and Tyrese Haliburton live at the line, combining for 15 attempts. Unfortunately, after attempting 15 as a team in the first half, they were unable to sustain that pace, shooting just four in the second, which after an impressive second quarter in particular in which Indiana quickly got Cleveland into the penalty and minimized that advantage, proved a bit fluky as the Cavs had 17 attempts themselves.
Mathurin did lead the way for Indiana with 22 points, hitting a pair of threes while Haliburton completed a double double of 17 points and 14 assists. Unfortunately, the duo was just 2-14 from deep with Mathurin hitting both while Haliburton failed to connect on all eight of his attempts.
The Pacers as a team were just 11-36 from three tonight, led by Buddy Hield, shooting 4-6 and scoring 14. Myles Turner also had a double double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, doing fairly well against Jarrett Allen. He also helped limit Evan Mobley in the first half, though the decision to limit Smith’s time with Turner in the second half may have proved costly with Mobley coming to life, scoring 10 of his 16 after the break.
Smith had nine points and four rebounds in 14 minutes and to Nesmith’s credit, he did play well, scoring 14 on 6-8 shooting with four rebounds, but an extra wrinkle presented itself with Isaiah Jackson returning to the rotation and playing extremely well. Jackson filled up the stat sheet, scoring 10 points with six rebounds, three assists (impressive ones as well), two steals, and two blocks.
The loss drops Indiana back to .500 once again at 15-15. They hung in there, but a loss is a loss and it won’t get any easier in the short term as they return home for a night to face the streaking New York Knicks. The Knicks began the year floundering as they usually do, but have rattled off six straight wins of late, five by double figures and four by holding their opponent under 100 points, giving Indiana a tall order in an early Sunday evening tip.