(AP) — The Indiana Pacers turned in their best shooting performance of the season in their last game.
A similar effort could be on tap Friday night when they visit a Cleveland Cavaliers team that has lost five straight and struggled on defense all season.
Indiana (14-12) shot a season-high 51.3 percent Wednesday to cruise to a 104-84 home victory over Utah. The Pacers hadn’t topped 50 percent this season.
Gerald Green scored a season-best 21 points and George Hill and Paul George each added 20. George also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
“I think we trusted passing more than we have all season and that’s what coach (Frank Vogel) has been preaching all year long,” Hill said. “If we can believe in each other, trust in each other, try to create a shot for each other rather than for yourself all the time, we can have great offensive nights like we did tonight.”
Finding the range against Cleveland (5-22) should not be difficult. The Cavaliers are last in the NBA in field-goal defense, allowing teams to shoot 47.6 percent.
Cleveland also could be without Anderson Varejao, who is averaging a league-best 14.4 rebounds. Varejao sat out Wednesday’s 103-91 loss at Boston with a bruised right knee.
The Cavs allowed the Celtics to shoot 59.7 percent one night after letting lowly Toronto make 52.0 percent of its attempts in a 113-99 defeat.
“We can’t go into games just thinking we’re going to outscore people,” coach Byron Scott said. “We don’t have the personnel to do that with right now.”
One of Cleveland’s best defensive efforts came in a 96-81 loss at Indiana on Dec. 12. The Pacers shot 41.0 percent but prevailed thanks to a stellar second half in which they limited the Cavs to 23 points.
Cleveland star Kyrie Irving was held to nine points on 4-for-12 shooting in that game – his second after missing 11 straight with a broken finger. The Pacers made a key defensive adjustment in forcing the ball out of Irving’s hands in the second half.
“Once Indiana became more aggressive and tried to take the ball out of Kyrie’s hands, we caved into it and we just stopped playing,” Scott said after that game.
Cleveland could be better poised to handle such a strategy since Dion Waiters is back. Waiters missed that contest with a sprained left ankle and has scored 21 points in two games since returning. The rookie is second on the team with 14.7 points per game.
Cleveland has dropped 16 straight to Central Division opponents since a 101-100 win over Detroit on Feb. 21. The Cavs have lost nine of 10 to the Pacers.
George enters this contest with two straight double-doubles after going 21 games in a row without one. He scored a team-high 27 earlier this month against Cleveland.
C.J. Miles led the Cavs with 28 points in the first meeting with Indiana, but he’s totaled just 16 in two games since going back to the bench with Waiters rejoining the lineup.