The Indiana Pacers were hardly playing their best offensive game of the season on New Year’s Eve afternoon against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Paul George scored 21 points, but did so on just 7-19 shooting while David West was also inefficient while shooting 4-11 from the floor. Overall, the Pacers shot only 44.2 percent from the floor and only 20 percent from three.
Even though they scored just 91 points, though, the Pacers still managed to pull out a 91-76 win over the Cavs. Though having a depleted frontcourt without Andrew Bynum certainly played a part for Cleveland, it was the Pacers’ trademark defense that really swung this contest in their favor.
Though you might see that Kyrie Irving was injured in this game and think that’s why Indiana was able to assert themselves, that really only played a part in the fourth quarter when the Pacers took control and pulled away from Cleveland. In actuality, the Pacers’ defense was stifling the Cavs’ long before that point; the injury only made it a little more severe.
Indiana held the Cavs to just 36.3 percent shooting from the field and allowed them to hit just one of their 12 attempts from three-point range. Moreover, the Pacers held Cleveland’s starters to quiet performances with no Cavs starter hitting more than five field goal attempts. In fact, no player for the Cavs had more than five made field goals, but holding the starters to that limited of production is the more impressive feat.
It’s no secret after the past few seasons that the Pacers can defend any team in this league effectively. However, with their improvements throughout their team this season, their defense now looks like even bigger of a weapon because it allows them to pull out ugly games like the one on Tuesday.