Coming off a tough home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, the Cleveland Cavaliers were looking to bounce back in another home game against the well-rested Indiana Pacers. The odds were not in their favor from the start, as the Cavs were missing three of their All-Stars: Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen. Unfortunately, they came up short. The Cavs fell to the Pacers 125-113 on Saturday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Pacers pulled away late, as their fresher legs were the difference.
Caris LeVert carried the Cavs to a hot start, as he had 22 first quarter points. The Cavs also held a 15-point lead early in the first, but the Pacers battled back to cut the lead to six heading into the second. That is when things went downhill for the Wine and Gold.
After a scorching first quarter that saw them score 37 points, the Cavs were only able to muster 12 points in the second. The Pacers scored 29 of their own, to enter halftime with an 11-point lead 60-49. However, the Cavs fought back in the third quarter, cutting the lead to four points 91-87, heading into the final frame. The two teams went back and forth in the fourth quarter, but it was the Pacers’ hot three-point shooting that was the difference.
Indy hit six three-pointers in the fourth, including three of them by All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton. He was a thorn in the Cavs’ side all night, as he had 21 points and 12 assists. Youngster Aaron Nesmith had a strong 26 points as well, as he led the Pacers in scoring off the bench.
With the Cavaliers missing Mitchell and Garland, it needed to be a collective effort to replace their offensive production. Evan Mobley answered the call with a strong game, as he had his first 20-point game of the season. He finished with a monstrous 33 points and 14 rebounds on 12-of-22 shooting. He looked very comfortable in the paint against Pacers center Myles Turner, as Mobley showed off his improved physicality.
It was very encouraging to see this from Mobley, as his offensive aggressiveness has been an issue in his young career. If he can keep this up when the Cavaliers reach full strength, the Eastern Conference just got that much tougher.
The Cavs also got a strong scoring game from LeVert, as he was thrusted into the starting lineup, who had the aforementioned hot start, and responded with 31 points. Max Strus bounced back as well after a rough shooting night against the Thunder on Friday, as he finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds on four-of-nine from three-point range. His rebounding has been a pleasant surprise so far, also.
That said, these contributions were not enough in the end, as the rest of the Cavaliers roster combined for 28 points. The offense sorely missed the playmaking from Mitchell and Garland, as the offense went through long stretches without baskets.
Looking ahead for the Cavs, they have two crucial matchups with the New York Knicks next week, a rematch of their first-round playoff series from six months ago. As for the Pacers, they are back in action on Monday in another Central Division battle against the Chicago Bulls.