Wrap-Up — If the question is: Does it hurt more to give up a season-high in points and get blown out by four touchdowns or to let a 22-point lead slip away and go scoreless in the last four minutes of a heartbreaker?
The answer is: Yes.
The Cavaliers wrapped up their 10-day trip, dropping the final three contests and going 1-4 on the roadie, returning home still searching for answers after dropping a difficult 97-95 decision on Friday night in Indiana.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse continues to flummox the Wine & Gold, who’ve now dropped 14 of their last 16 regular season games in downtown Indianapolis. Overall, the Cavaliers – who’d won 18 of 19 before December 19, have gone 3-8 since.
After getting throttled in back-to-back contests heading into Friday’s affair, the Cavaliers were razor sharp to start the game – holding Indiana to a season-low 12 points in the first quarter, extending their lead to 22 before the Pacers found their sea-legs late in the period.
But things began going south in the second quarter – with Indiana shooting 70 percent from the floor, to just 40 percent for Cleveland – cutting the Cavs’ lead to 14. The Pacers proceeded to outscore Ty Lue’s squad, 32-16, in the third and Indiana went into the final quarter with a 76-74 edge.
The Cavaliers regained the lead in the fourth – taking a six-point edge, 95-89, on a LeBron James jumper with 3:57 to play in regulation. But those would be the last points Cleveland would manage on the night. Their best opportunity to score down the stretch came in the closing seconds, but LeBron stepped on the baseline with 2.3 to play and Darren Collison split a pair of free throws to seal the deal.
Cleveland got better production from their starters on Friday night, but James and Kevin Love were still the only starters to notch double-figures. Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade were held out in the second game of the back-to-back after playing the previous evening in Toronto.
LeBron led all scorers with 27 points, going 11-for-25 from the floor, adding a game-high 11 assists, eight boards, three steals and a block.
Kevin Love bounced back from a pair of rough outings, doubling-up for the first time since December 30 – finishing with 21 points and a team-high 10 boards, going 8-for-14 from the floor, adding three steals and a blocked shot.
LBJ & KLove combine for 48 and JG tallies 13 off the bench.
Jeff Green was the only other Cavalier in double-figures, chipping in with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting to lead a bench that pooled just 25 points in the loss.
The Cavaliers backcourt was better than it’s been, but Jose Calderon and JR Smith still combined for only 17 points on 7-for-18 shooting. Meanwhile, Indiana’s starting backcourt of Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison were a combined 17-for-32 from the floor for 41 points.
Cleveland threatened to run away from Indiana in the first half, posting 20 fastbreak points in the first quarter alone and finishing with 39 – a season-high. But the Cavs shot just 21 percent from long-range and were outscored by 14 points in the paint.
Turning Point — The early turning point of the game came late in the second quarter – after the Pacers had absorbed Cleveland’s opening salvo and closing the first half on a 15-7 run to cut the Cavs’ lead from 22 to 14 heading into intermission.
The late, and decisive, turning point came in the game’s final four minutes – with the Cavaliers failing to score a single point, attempting eight shots over that stretch, six of them three-pointers.
By the Numbers – 14.3, .431, .421, .897 … Jeff Green’s scoring average, shooting, three-point and free throw percentages over the last seven games, posting double-figures in six of them.
Quotable – Coach Tyronn Lue, on Cleveland’s underwhelming third quarter in Indy …
“We came out in that third quarter walking around – we didn’t push, we didn’t attack. They could’ve been a little tired or fatigued, I’m not sure, but we really didn’t attack in that third quarter. Just walking around.”
Up Next — After an extremely challenging road stretch – one that’s seen them play eight of their last nine games away from The Q – the Wine & Gold return for a much-needed three-game homestand. It doesn’t start off easy – with the Cavs welcoming the World Champs to Cleveland for a Martin Luther King Day matchup. After a couple days off, Tyronn Lue’s squad hosts the Orlando Magic on Thursday night, looking to avenge an embarrassing home loss from earlier this season. The Cavs wrap up the week with a marquee matinee matchup on Saturday afternoon when they welcome Russell Westbrook and the Thunder to town.
Calls of the Game