Pacers put win streak to test against Cavs
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers might never have a better moment to face the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers than Wednesday night, when the teams will meet at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers are riding a seven-game winning streak. Since starting the season 15-18, they have 14 wins in 18 games.
Indiana also comes in tied for the third-best home record in the NBA (20-6), while the Cavaliers might be missing some players due to injuries.
“We’re definitely playing better basketball,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told pacers.com. “We’re more comfortable with what we’re doing out there and how we’re supposed to do things.”
Indiana defeated the Cavaliers at home earlier this season 103-93, but LeBron James sat that game out to rest.
“He missed one already,” Pacers forward Paul George said about James. “I don’t think he’ll miss another one.”
Indiana (29-22) has won 12 of its past 13 home games against Cleveland, though James played in only one of those Pacers wins.
“The champions are coming in,” McMillan said. “We don’t know who will be uniform for them, but regardless of that, it’s going to be a good team. We have to be at our best.”
The Cavs may be without a starter. Shooting guard Iman Shumpert sprained his left ankle on Monday night, and he is due to be re-evaluated on Wednesday morning. Chris Andersen (ACL tear) and J.R. Smith (thumb fracture) are both still out of action for Cleveland.
Meanwhile, Pacers forward Thaddeus Young (sprained left wrist) is questionable after missing the past two games. Guarding Kevin Love won’t be an easy task if Young is out. Love posted season-highs of 27 points and 16 rebounds against the Pacers earlier this season.
Cleveland (35-15) is coming off a dramatic overtime road win over the Washington Wizards on Monday night. The Cavaliers have been a lot better at home this season, but they still own a respectable 13-10 record on the road.
The Cavs are 3-0 this month after posting a 7-8 record last month.
“It’s been a good February for us so far after a not-so-good January,” said James, whose banked 3-pointer forced overtime on Monday. “We wanted to try and continue that (against the Wizards) against a hot team at their home.”
James scored 32 points and dished out a career-high 17 assists before fouling out.
“LeBron fouling out the first 30 second of overtime, and for us to still win this game against a good, quality team, it means a lot,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Hopefully we can continue to build on this.”
Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving scored 11 of his 23 points in overtime.
“I just saw us coming together,” Lue said. “Kyrie was struggling offensively. LeBron fouled out, and (Irving) put the team on his shoulders.”
Indiana and Cleveland are two of the better 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, with the Cavs shooting 39.5 percent from deep and the Pacers at 36.6 percent.
The Pacers are 6-3 against Central Division opponents this season, while the Cavs are just 3-5. Cleveland won three of the four meetings with the Pacers a year ago.