Beating the teams you’re supposed to beat. It’s one of the characteristics of the good NBA teams.
The Indiana Pacers (15-12) are starting to become the team many NBA analysts and fans expected by taking care of business against inferior competition. The latest example was Indiana’s 99-89 road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (5-23) on Friday night. The Pacers have won five of their last six games.
The Cavs were without Anderson Varaejao, their starting center and the NBA’s leading rebounder, yet had the lead at halftime by a point. The Pacers, once again, looked to be playing down to their competition.
Indiana changed the tenor of the game in the third quarter. Better ball movement led to easy looks, resulting in an 11-2 run early in the period that gave the Pacers the lead for good. The Pacers, who have had issues as a team finishing at the rim this season, were 5-of-8 in the quarter within five feet. All but two of Indiana’s ten field goals in the period were outside of the paint.
“The game was too close,” said Pacers swingman Paul George. “We didn’t want to have to leave it to where it came down to the last possession and have them make some plays when we could have taken care of business earlier.”
All five Pacers starters scored in double figures led by Roy Hibbert with 18 points. Hibbert played one of his best offensive games of the season despite foul trouble. Lance Stephenson had a season-high 16 points and a career-high seven assists. It was arguably his best game as a pro.
“I thought he played well,” Pacers forward David West said of Stephenson’s performance. “He’s just coming back from an ankle injury and he got out in transition and made some plays. He also made his presence felt on the perimeter defensively.”
Indiana now heads south to face the New Orleans Hornets Saturday night. Another game they should win against a team with one of the league’s worst records. It won’t be easy as the Hornets always play with great effort and the Pacers weren’t able to leave Cleveland until Saturday morning due to weather conditions. Also, it will be Indiana’s fourth game in five nights. Nevertheless, it’s still a game the Pacers should win to keep this great momentum going into Christmas.
Follow Jay Neal on Twitter @JayNilla