Cleveland Cavaliers (10-20) at Indiana Pacers (24-5)
There are a number of things in play this afternoon – no pun intended – when we speak of the Cleveland Cavaliers taking on the Indiana Pacers. Most of the topics surround Indiana, but Cleveland isn’t making it easy.
In the first matchup between the two Central Division foes, the Pacers controlled all facets of the game against the Cavs en route to an 89-74 blowout victory. In fact, Indiana has made blowouts the norm recently, as they ride a four-game winning streak into its New Year’s Eve contest at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with Cleveland.
The Pacers have beaten their last four opponents – all wins, as previously mentioned – by an average of 22.7 points. That’s a blistering number and their largest victory in those games came against the Houston Rockets, when Indiana streaked to a 33-point smothering.
Teams in the NBA never want to enter a divisional game with the mindset that the game is going to be easy. Two weeks ago, Detroit proved to Indiana that divisional games are tough as they beat the Pacers on the road for a marquee win.
Thus, today’s game will not be easy unless the Indiana Pacers play together – and do so consistently. Cleveland has watched film from their last defeat at the hands of Indiana, and undoubtedly are ready for a rematch.
Also at stake for the Pacers is a shot at their fifth straight win. Helping the cause is it being a home game this afternoon (3 p.m. tip) and Indiana has had a healthy number of days to rest. The Indiana Pacers have not traveled anywhere since the 23rd when they crushed the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center.
In eight days, the Pacers have only played once at home, also a dominating performance over Brooklyn. Indiana has gladly welcomed a favorable schedule around the holidays with the opportunity to get their legs under them again.
As Indiana vies for their 25th win of the season, Cleveland will ride the shoulders of Kyrie Irving in hope of an upset. Irving is priority No. 1 for the Pacers if they want to slow the Cavs’ offense. George Hill has always had difficulty defending Irving, so expect to see Paul George and C.J. Watson share part of that task.
As usual, I see a big game from Indiana’s front line of David West, Roy Hibbert and George. Expect another 20+ point output from George.
Last season, the Pacers did not win their 25th game until January 18. This season, Indiana gets its 25th victory on New Year’s Eve with a 106-88 win against Cleveland.