The Cleveland Cavaliers will be up against the Indiana Pacers for the first of two times in three nights on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena. Tip-off is at 7, as both the Cavaliers and Pacers are riding one-game winning streaks.
The Pacers have actually crept up to third place in the Eastern Conference, only trailing the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls, two powerhouse teams that were already projected to be atop the standings before the season started. However, a lot of experts picked Indiana to be a sleeper team, but they have shattered those expectations.
The Philadelphia 76ers (1-4) and the Orlando Magic (2-6) have helped the Pacers slingshot into the third seed with their recent collapses. It’s not a huge deal because those teams will make the playoffs regardless, but the Pacer community should be very excited. Playing Chicago very close in the first round of the playoffs last season brought a lot of attention to the young and talented Pacer squad.
The Cavaliers will try to put together their first winning streak of one game or more since March 11 when they were winners of three straight. Beating the Pacers is going to be a tall task for Cleveland, but another spark from the bench could help deliver another home victory for the Cavs.
Cavaliers (19-36, 10-18 home):
Offensive Efficiency – 98.8 (26th)
Pace – 94.1 (13th)
Turnover Ratio – 24.8 (19th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage – 46.5 (28th)
Defensive Efficiency – 105.2 (25th)
Pacers (35-22, 16-14 away):
Offensive Efficiency – 102.9 (12th)
Pace – 93.2 (19th)
Turnover Ratio – 23.8 (13th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage – 47.5 (22nd)
Defensive Efficiency – 100.3 (10th)
Although Pacers poing guard Darren Collison missed practice Tuesday and is listed as day-to-day, he traveled to Cleveland and will most likely see some playing time off the bench. In lieu of his absence Pacers shooting guard George Hill will get his second career start. Hill scored 18 points and brought in seven rebounds with four assists in his first start against the Toronto Raptors on Monday.
Hill and the Pacers, winners of their last two away games, are looking ahead and not thinking about the place they hold in the East right now. Six games separate the third team (Pacers) from the eight seed (New York Knicks), so there is no time for the Pacers to settle in. Every game counts and out of Indiana’s nine final games, six of them come at home.
With that said, the Pacers starters have been a huge reason for their success so far this season. David West (averaging 12.0 points, 6.4 rebounds), Danny Granger (18.6 points, 4.8 rebounds), Roy Hibbert (12.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.96 blocks) and Paul George (12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds) have had no problem with sharing roles on offense. All five of their regular starters, including Collison, average over 10 points per game.
Their ball distribution, however, has been a problem. Ranked dead last in the NBA in assists with 18.2 per game, the Pacers have no domineering point guard who’s job is to find open guys. Their leader in assists, Collison, is out right now and accounts for 26.9 percent of Indiana’s assists. If the Cavaliers can win the battle on the boards by limiting Indiana’s chances of second attempts, Cleveland will keep the game competitive, at least.
With the Pacers even-scoring distribution among their starters the Cavaliers bench will be asked to step up once again to counter the hot hands on Indiana. Cleveland has played Indiana two times already this season, losing in overtime on Dec. 30, 2011 and winning at home on Feb. 15. The difference between those games and Wednesday’s game will be the absence of Kyrie Irving. Irving scored 20 and 22 respectively in those games.
Bench players like Lester Hudson and Omri Casspi will have to provide big surges off the bench in order to keep the game close. Hudson scored a game-high 25 points and Casspi added 12 off the bench in the win against the Charlotte Bobcats Tuesday night.
Will the Lesanity continue? Tune in at 7:00 p.m. to find out.