INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers will host LeBron James and the world champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Before the season, many experts picked the Pacers to be one of the few teams that could challenge Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. However, things haven’t as well as planned for Indiana in the early going.
They come into Wednesday night with a 5-6 record, and a lot of questions on the defensive end. They’re hoping that their win over the Magic on Monday was a step in the right direction, as they held Orlando to 69 points. Before that, the Pacers were giving up 108 points per game, fifth worst in the NBA.
"The defense started to come together," Myles Turner told NBA.com. "The togetherness was there. The toughness was there. The communication was there. Obviously, we have the talent on offense; but, once we’re tied together on defense, our offense will spark our defense."
Despite the losing record, the Pacers are 5-1 at home this season. In recent years, Bankers Life Fieldhouse has been a tough place for LeBron James’ teams to play. The Cavaliers beat the Pacers in Indianapolis in February last season. James’s teams hadn’t won a regular-season game in Indiana since February 2012 before that.
"Bankers Life Fieldhouse is always tough," James said. "It’s been tough my whole career."
"It’s a big game," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. "The world champs are coming in here. It’s kind of a game where you measure yourself."
Rodney Stuckey (hamstring) was a full participant in practice this week but is still expected to be out against Cleveland. He could return for the Pacers this weekend.
The Cavaliers will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back. They defeated the Toronto Raptors 121-117 on Tuesday and come in with the best record in the Eastern Conference (9-1), just a half-game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for best record in the NBA.
There has been no NBA Finals hangover from Cleveland so far this season. Nine wins in their first 10 games matches the best start in franchise history.
James is averaging nearly a triple-double. He had 28 points to go along with 14 rebounds and nine assists on Tuesday night.
"I don’t really pay attention to records, but I do pay attention to the teams we are playing and what they bring to the table," James said. "It will be a good test. But we’re already tested."
J.R. Smith didn’t play on Tuesday night and is questionable for Wednesday with a right ankle sprain. Smith is just three 3-pointers behind Dirk Nowitzki for 15th on the all-time list.
Former Pacer Mike Dunleavy could start in his place. Dunleavy has shot 42 percent from behind the arc in his career against the Pacers, though he’s off to a rough start with his new team this year.
The Cavaliers have made at least 10 3-pointers in each game this season. That will be something to watch for in this game, as the Pacers have struggled defending the three.