For a while, the Indaina Pacers had the look of a team that was hitting its stride at just the right time, having won winning five consecutive games and eight out of their last nine. But then came two crushing losses to Oklahoma City and Washington and questions arose. But despite this, a Chicago loss at Detroit on Sunday gave them their first Central Division title in nearly a decade. What’s more, they’re still in the hunt for the number-2 seed in the Eastern Conference, even though they are now they are 2 1/2 games behind New York.
But with the 104-85 routing they received at the hands of the Washington Wizards, they have a chance to regain some dignity on Tuesday, Apr 9 as they face the Cleveland Cavaliers at home in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.
But though the Pacers have dominated them in recent years, having won 12 of the past 13 contests, the Cavaliers will ride a two-game win streak into Indy. But a tough Indiana defense will decide whether they extend their win streak to three games.
It’s been quite a season, but with only five games remaining, the Pacers have scant time to regain ground. If they win Tuesday it will go on the books as the sixth straight home win versus Cleveland, who have 24 wins thus far to 52 losses. Also, a win would give the Pacers their second series sweep in 3 seasons. They beat Cleveland by an average of 15.3 points the first 3 times they played this season.
For the Cavaliers, it hasn’t been the kind of year that fans envision at the start of the season. The notched their 10th straight loss on Apr 3rd in a road game in Brooklyn versus the Nets. But back-to-back wins versus Boston and Orlando were just what they needed. Winning on the road versus a stingy Indiana defense would give them something they haven’t had since the 2nd week of February: A 3-game win streak.
Forward Tristan Thompson has been instrumental in their two recent wins, putting up 44 points and 33 rebounds, not to mention 20 points and 11 rebounds in a 111-90 home loss to none other than Indiana on March 18.
Point guard Kyrie Irving, however, has not been himself. Since returning from a shoulder injury he has averaged just 12 points over three games. What’s more, he has shot just 23.5 percent during this same span. And with the Pacers leading the league in defense, the prospect of him regaining his all-star form aren’t looking so good. In his previous 2 games versus the Pacers he totaled just 26 points and shot 9 of 28, just 32 percent.
The Cavaliers have generally been poor shooters throughout the season. Versus Indiana, they have averaging just 86.7 points per game on 37.2 percent shooting, and have not been able to break the 100-point barrier in their last 10 games.
With the Pacers, it’s been a different story. The have consistent ranked near the top defensively, allowing just 90.2 points per game, which as of this writing ranks second in the league. That said, they have allowed 102.8 points on 48.6 percent shooting their most recent 4 games, which translates to 12.6 points above their season average.
Shooting guard/Small forward Paul George struggled mightily versus Washington on Sat, scoring just 2 points and missing all 8 field goal tries. Against the Cavaliers he has averaged a team-high 17.0 points. There is more than a good chance that he will regain his swagger on Tuesday.
Roy Hibbert has been another great contributor on the inside, averaging 22.8 points on 59.6 percent shooting and 9.8 rebounds during the most recent 6 games.
Finally, the Pacers lead the league in rebounding. Their plus-5.1 differential is a testament to the kind of defense they have played all season long. In their 3 wins versus the Cavaliers, they have boasted a 149-121 margin on the glass.