Now on a two-game winning streak, the Cleveland Cavaliers will look to make it three in a row against the lords of the Central Division – the Indiana Pacers. Currently the third-place team in the Eastern Conference, Indiana has lost two in a row against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Washington Wizards. As it stands, they are 4.5 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets (making their three seed fairly safe), but they are still only 2.5 games behind the New York Knicks with five games left. If they want that seeding, this game is a must win.
Opponent’s Blog: Always Miller Time
Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse – Indianapolis
Tipoff: 7 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Pacers by -14 ½
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio
Where you can listen: WTAM (1100), WFUN (970 AM)
For the Cavaliers, they will be left shorthanded tonight, as Luke Walton, C.J. Miles, Daniel “Boobie” Gibson and Dion Waiters are all likely out tonight. Miles, who suffered a concussion in the Cavaliers last game, will be the biggest loss out of that group. With Waiters having missed over a week at this point, Miles has filled in (along with Wayne Ellington) admirably.
With all the injuries, firepower is going to be greatly lacking for the Cavaliers tonight. It was already lacking with Waiters out, but now the sole consistent offensive powerhouse at least somewhat healthy is Kyrie Irving – who is coming off a 3-of-15 shooting night against the Magic. To pull the upset tonight, an unexpected source of offense is going to have to step up. Possibilities include Ellington, Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee. One sleeper name to watch out for is Marreese Speights, whose production has fallen off as of late. Coming off the bench and matching up against Tyler Hansbrough could be a good way for Speights to get back on the right track as his likely free agency approaches.
One other player to watch (as always) is center Tyler Zeller. He’ll be matched up with Roy Hibbert tonight and it’s likely not going to be pretty. He’s going to get worked in the paint, but this could be a growth game for him. If he can muster up a solid fight for a few minutes in this game, that will be a positive sign for the young center.
For Indiana, they need to win this game. They have overcome a lot this season with the season-ending injury to Danny Granger and the recent losing streak. But when the dust settles, this is still a formidable team in the Eastern Conference. They have a big piece in the middle in Hibbert, a budding star in Paul George and a lot of solid players like David West. And most importantly, they are a stylistic problem for the mighty Miami Heat due to their inside strength.
This game, in all honesty, is a matchup of two teams going in totally different directions. Indiana is on their way up and into the playoffs, while the Cavaliers are limping their way to the finish. It’s a matchup that means everything to one team, while it means nothing to the other.