Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers Game Recap: The Return of J.R. Swish

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(Cleveland, OH) — The combination of a triple-double from LeBron James and double-doubles from Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson helped the Cleveland Cavaliers at least temporarily stop the bleeding on their month-long slump as they defeated the Indiana Pacers by a score of 115-108 at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday night.

James scored 26, handed out 11 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds in collecting his eighth triple-double of the season in the victory. He was joined by Love’s 10 points and 13 rebounds, while Thompson celebrated his return to the starting lineup with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“I think Kevin and Tristan did well on the defensive end,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said during his postgame press conference. “When Tristan’s rolling the way he was tonight, we’re effective offensively.”

All five members of the Cavaliers’ starting lineup scored in double figures, with J.R. Smith scoring 18 of his 23 points during the first half. All but one his field goals came from long-range. Isaiah Thomas added 12 points and five assists, while Derrick Rose and Jeff Green came off the bench to score 14 and 11, respectively.

“My release has been a little slower than I like, but I keep working on it,” Smith said.

Leading by 17 after three quarters, the Cavaliers had problems maintaining possession in those final 12 minutes. They committed nine turnovers and watched the Pacers whittle the margin down to just five points at 111-106 with 1:44 left before finally putting the game away.

“We got up, got comfortable, took a lot of bad shots and didn’t play the game the right way,” Lue said about the fourth-quarter struggles.

The Cavs had managed to rack up 73 points during the first half, primarily due to their 62 percent shooting from the field. Those shot attempts were aided by fluid ball movement that saw them dish out 20 assists on their 29 field goals.

“J.R.’s been struggling, obviously, and it was key that he got going early,” James said. “We started feeding him and he delivered.”

Leading by as many as 10 during the first quarter after jumping out to an early 13-6 advantage, Cleveland continually had to contend with Indiana’s attempts to battle back. By the end of the first quarter, the Cavs held a 38-31 lead, though the Pacers got to within three at 53-50 with 4:08 left before intermission. For the remainder of the half, the Cavaliers outscored the visitors by an 18-10 score, the final two points coming on a buzzer-beater by James to make it 73-60.

“To be back with T-Top (Thompson) upfront, it felt familiar and I thought we started out well together,” Love said.

The third quarter was sloppy for both teams, with the two squads combining for 15 turnovers. However, Cleveland clamped down on defense, which resulted in Indiana connecting on just 30 percent (7-of-23) of their shots from the field during the period.

“Our defensive approach was very good, we had a good game plan and we executed,” James said.

That sloppiness helped lead each team to solid stretches, with the Cavs jumping out to an 80-64 lead, only to see the Pacers answer with a 12-3 run to make it 83-76. The Cavaliers then unleashed a 14-4 surge to close the period and make it a 97-80 lead entering the final quarter.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the outside world says,” James said about the recent turmoil surrounding the team. “It’s about how we just have to come in and prepare ourselves. We gotta be very good, bunker mentality, and we gotta keep our minds fresh and not worry about what everyone else is saying.”

The Cavaliers will stay at home for their next contest, when they face the Detroit Pistons in a Sunday night game that will tip off just after 6 p.m ET. The two teams will then face each other on Tuesday night in Detroit.

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.