Los Angeles came to town the Tuesday night, and Cleveland put on an offensive show. Kyrie Irving made his first appearance in three weeks after suffering a fracture in his hand, and he dominated. His play set a spark for the rest of the team. We were left with one question: is this for real? Heading into Indiana Wednesday night seemed like a good way to answer, as they have one of the best defenses in the league. Cleveland was up early, and pulled ahead by as much as 16. This was great until you took a hard look at it. It wasn't an overall team performance, it was simply C.J. Miles carrying the team. He finished the first half with 23 points, and ended with 28. You will be hard pressed to find a team that can win in the NBA when you only have one starter hitting shots. This caught up to Cleveland with a little over three minutes left in the second quarter. Cavs were up 54-38, and they started throwing up bricks. Pacers went on a 14-4 run, and the lead had been cut to six.
The second half came and it was a complete disaster. Paul George outscored the entire Cavaliers team alone 27-23. 23 points allowed marks the lowest amount ever given up by the Pacers since joining the NBA in 1976. Miles cooled down, and ended up 8 of 18 from the field. The rest of the starters were a combined 6 for 32, or 18.8%.
"We just made some adjustments to how we're going to guard them on the ball," Pacers forward David West said regarding their second half strategy. "We took away their first option, took away there initial movement, then made them go to that second round of things that they wanted to do, and they weren't as efficient as they were in the first half."
This meant keeping the ball out of Irving's hands and putting as much pressure on Miles as possible. While it seems to have worked, Cleveland had plenty of open shots they just couldn't connect on. Irving ended up with nine points and four rebounds. A real let down from the night before when he dropped 28 points on the Lakers. Anderson Varejao ended up pulling down 12 rebounds, but didn't hit a single field goal and managed only four points.
Cleveland relies on Varejao and Irving. Without at least decent performances from each of them it seems impossible for the Cavs to win against anyone. As obvious as it may be at this point, Wednesday night's game slapped everyone in the face with it. This is not to take away from Miles, but he is a supporting cast member at this point. And speaking of supporting players, Cleveland's bench put in some great minutes. Samardo Samuels came in for 22 minutes and had 10 points. Tyler Zeller and Daniel Gibson each had 8 points.
Cleveland takes on Milwaukee at the Q tomorrow night at 7:30 pm before traveling to New York to play the Knicks on Saturday.
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