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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers Game Recap: LeBron-less Cavs Unable to Contain Pacers

Kevin Love Cavs

(Indianapolis, IN) – Missing a number of key opportunities throughout the game and also missing a pair of key pieces in their lineup, the Cleveland Cavaliers fell to 8-2 on the year with a 103-93 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday night.

Those opportunities saw them almost come back from a double-digit deficit on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, they were never able to get any closer than a few points each time before the Pacers moved the lead back up. Also, 18 turnovers on the evening caused problems throughout the game, many of those errors of the careless variety.

The Cavs were without the services of a resting LeBron James and a still-injured J.R. Smith. James sat out the game as the Cavaliers reached the middle game of a tough three-games-in-four-nights stretch, while Smith continues to recover from a sprained ankle suffered last week. In addition, veteran reserve Mike Dunleavy also was held out.

The last chance for the Cavaliers came during the fourth quarter, when they used an 11-4 run to get to within four at 88-84 with 6:24 left. Nine straight points followed for Indiana and any thoughts of pulling out a victory evaporated. Still, Cleveland was competitive throughout the game, unlike some other games in which James wasn’t available. Their record without James, since his return to Cleveland, drops to 4-16 overall.

The Cavs were able to extend their NBA-record string of double-digit 3-point performances by ending the night with 11, led by Kevin Love’s four and two apiece from Channing Frye and Jordan McRae.

“We had our chances, we just couldn’t get over the hump,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. “It’s not about LeBron playing and when he does or when he doesn’t. We’ve got to establish something and come out and win these games.”

Love concurred with Lue’s assessment, citing the Pacers’ ability to fend off surges:

“We would cut the lead to four of five and then commit a turnover,” Love said. “Then they’d make the shots when they needed to build the lead back up.”

Love led all scorers with 27 points and picked up a double-double with 16 rebounds. Kyrie Irving was the only other Cleveland player to reach double figures with 24 points and seven assists. Tristan Thompson collected 12 rebounds during the course of the game, while rookie Kay Felder saw the most action of his young career, scoring nine points in 13 minutes.

“With J.R. and LeBron out, we had a chance to give our young guys some court time to develop their game,” Lue said. “I’m proud of the guys. They played hard and competed and that’s all you can ask for.”

Despite the praise, Irving saw room for improvement:

“We just have to make plays happen. We had some good looks and we came out with an aggressive mindset,” Irving said. “We have to go out and compete and give it our best shot.”

Both teams had scoring runs during most of the first half, beginning after the Cavaliers took an early 7-4 lead. Indiana ran off nine unanswered points, only to see the Cavs come back with six straight points of their own. Missing the opportunity to tie the game at 15, Cleveland watched Indiana go on a 15-6 surge to close out the opening quarter with a 30-19 advantage.

In the second period, Indiana started out cold, which allowed the Cavs to get to within three at 38-35 with 6:26 left before intermission. The Pacers answered with eight unanswered points to seemingly take back control of the game. However, Irving’s 3-pointer with 3:46 left began 10 straight Cavalier points to get to within one. By the time the half ended, Indiana led 50-45.

A slow start to the third quarter saw Indiana score the first seven points, though Cleveland was able to get the margin down to four at 66-62 with 4:23 left. The Cavs had a chance to cut that margin in half, but Love’s 3-point miss led to a 14-6 run by Indiana and an 80-68 deficit with a quarter left.

“There was a couple of big shots in the third quarter that didn’t go in and they ended up scoring in transition,” Irving said. “We ended up taking a timeout.”

Asked in the postgame locker room about the Cavaliers’ struggles without James in the lineup, Love spoke about the level of improvement that’s taken place.

“In year one, we didn’t know how to play sometimes and sometimes we didn’t play hard enough,” Love said. “Buy guys stepped up and played strong tonight.”

James is expected to be back in the Cavs lineup on Friday evening when they host the Detroit Pistons in a game that will tip off just after 7:30 p.m. After that contest, the Cavs will be able to catch their breath since they don’t play again until next Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers.

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