Pacers firing on all cylinders in quest for eighth straight win
“We’re moving the ball a little better,” Collison said. “We’re caring about each other, not just about ourselves. Everybody is making the right plays. It comes down to defense. We play defense the way we’ve been playing, we can get whatever we want on the offensive end.”
Shooting guard Victor Oladipo watched the first four games of the winning streak from the bench while sidelined a sore right knee, but has been able to play the past three games.
“We’re playing great team ball,” Oladipo said. “At the end of day we’re playing for one another. We’ve brought our defense all seven games. Now we have to bring our defense night in and night out.”
The Pacers (20-10) will face visiting Cleveland (7-23) Tuesday night. Indiana didn’t pull away from the New York Knicks (9-22) until late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 110-99 victory.
“This is the NBA, they’re going to come in a bring it as much as New York did,” Collison said of the Cavaliers. “Anybody can get a win. We have to have that humble mentality and understand that is going to be the case Tuesday night and be ready to play.”
Tighter defense in the fourth quarter has been key for the Pacers during close games in the winning streak.
“(Assistant coach) Dan Burke had done a good job with us all year long of helping us be where we need to be every single day,” Collison said. “It’s just something embedded in our heads now where we have to be in the spots to help our teammates.”
During the winning streak, Indiana has held opponents to 97.4 points per 100 possessions.
Cleveland coach Larry Drew used his 12th different starting lineup Sunday as the injury-plagued Cavaliers lost to visiting Philadelphia 128-105. The starters were outscored 90-55.
“Defensively I need them to be more sound,” Drew said of the starters. “We have not been a sound defensive ball club at the start of the game and have not brought the type of physicality that I think a starting team should bring at the very beginning of the game. Your bench is supposed to bring energy, and supposed to bring defense and if that starting group is not going good, they are supposed to kind of pick up the pace.”
Against Philadelphia, the bench did provide a spark. Cleveland’s bench outscored Philadelphia’s bench 50-38.
“We have an energized bench and I love that about those guys,” Drew said. “(The starters) have to be more physical, much more aggressive and they have to move the basketball. When the ball sticks that’s when we get in trouble. We have to move the ball from side to side. I was talking some of our coaches and with our team, margin for error is small. We have to accept that. I’m talking about bad shot selection. I’m talking about not making the extra pass and defensively not getting back. We have to do all the little things because those little things sum up to be things for our ball club.”
Cavaliers rookie starting guard Collin Sexton, who averages 15.3 points, said the team has to keep moving and sharing the ball to improve offensive play.
“I felt we did some things good at certain points, but we have to do it consistently and throughout the entire game,” Sexton said. “We got stagnant (offensively) in the fourth quarter.”
The Cavaliers will be without Tristan Thompson, who has missed the last three games with a left foot sprain.
The Pacers played without backup guard Tyreke Evans, who was sidelined with a bruised knee. His status is questionable for the game with the Cavaliers.
Meanwhile, Oladipo had the best game since he returned with 26 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-8 3-pointers.
Oladipo said he is nearly 100 percent physically after missing 11 games with the knee injury.