Welp. Another Cavs game, another fourth-quarter collapse. The Cavs entered the fourth quarter with an 84-64 lead. They ended the fourth quarter with a 99-94 loss to the Pacers in the book. In between, just about everything you could possibly do to blow a game happened. 4-of-20 shooting for the quarter? Check. 12-of-17 shooting for Indiana? Check. Kevin Jones crunch-time minutes? Check. WAY too much Omri Casspi? Check. It was a pitiful fourth quarter for the Cavaliers after a dominant first three, and the Cavs dropped yet another game to a division rival, dropping to a tie for the league-worst division record with the Orlando Magic at 3-12.
The first three quarters were very positive for Cleveland. This was led by Kyrie Irving, who went for 29 points, three rebounds and seven assists in his first real positive scoring outburst since returning from a shoulder injury. Tyler Zeller was also solid, coming alive from midrange (he hit 7-of-13 from 18+ feet) and finishing the first three quarters with 18 points in a great offensive performance that highlighted my favorite part of Zeller’s game: his screens. A lot of Zeller’s positives offensively center on his pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop game, as he’s a pretty decent midrange shooter and a devastating pick-setter. That worked to perfection tonight, as Zeller pulled Roy Hibbert away from the basket and opened up the lane for the rest of the Cavs. Meanwhile, the Pacers hit just one three-point shot in the first three frames, and particularly Paul George struggled, going just 1-of-6 through the first three quarters to short-circuit the Pacers offense.
Then, the fourth quarter started, and the Cavs brought the reserves in. A Livingston/Ellington/Casspi/Speights/Jones lineup kicked off the fourth quarter with a 20-point lead, and predictably got wrecked as the Pacers second team hit its stride offensively. Then, as the starters came back in, the Pacers got hot, and the Cavs were anything but. Zeller was a complete non-factor in the fourth. Irving went 2-of-5. Ellington and Tristan Thompson combined to finish 0-of-7. Meanwhile, Paul George finished with 14 points, as he hit a few nice shots down the stretch, while George Hill, who was about the only consistent offensive option throughout the game for Indiana, went 4-of-5 in the final frame and hit the game-tying lay-in and go-ahead free throw. He finished with 27 points, four assists and four steals. David West finished with 15 points and nine rebounds as well, as the Pacers took it to the Cavs in the fourth and won a game they had no business winning. Overall, it was a difficult game to watch, especially after two games where the Cavs had really positive offensive showings. However, this is what the Pacers defense can do to a team, and while it was disappointing, the positive showings from Irving, Zeller and Alonzo Gee defensively are promising. The Cavs will have a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow against the Pistons, a game they definitely should win.