INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers were almost unrecognizable in the first half against Cleveland. They bounced back in a historic way after the break.
Paul George scored 27 points and the Pacers held the Cavaliers to 23 points in the second half of a 96-81 victory on Wednesday night. It was the fewest points Indiana has allowed in a half since they joined the NBA in 1976.
It was the fewest points Cleveland has ever scored in a half, surpassing the former low of 24 against Miami on Nov. 4, 1995, and against San Antonio on March 25, 1997.
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“We just made some adjustments to how we’re going to guard them on the ball,” Pacers forward David West said. “We took away their first option, took away their first 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.”
Indiana, one of the league’s best defensive teams, was getting ripped to shreds — trailing by 16 at one point. Only a late surge in the final minutes of the second quarter prevented the game from being a complete disaster for the Pacers, as they pulled to 58-52 at the break.
There wasn’t much for Indiana’s coaches to say at halftime — they mostly just showed film.
“They kept it short, and when they keep it short, you know what that means,” George said. “It’s something we have to do better. The whole team knows what we needed to get better at and that’s challenging shots and really defending. We wasn’t really playing defense.”
Indiana bounced back in a big way and held Cleveland to its lowest-scoring half ever.
West had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and George Hill added 17 points as the Pacers snapped a two-game skid. Indiana, third in the NBA in scoring defense and No. 1 in opponent field-goal percentage coming in, held the Cavaliers to 8-for-41 shooting in the second half.
The Cavaliers couldn’t build on Tuesday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers. C.J. Miles scored 28 points for the second straight game, but Kyrie Irving was held to nine points on 4-for-12 shooting in his second game back after missing 11 straight with a broken finger.
Cleveland coach Byron Scott said the Pacers’ defense against Irving dictated the game.
“Once Indiana became more aggressive and tried to take the ball out of Kyrie’s hands, we caved into it and we just stopped playing,” Scott said.
Irving said the Cavaliers need to learn from their second-half failure.
“We have to learn as a young team to know how to carry a lead like we had into the second half,” he said. “As the leader of this team, I have to do a better job of settling us down and making that happen.”
Perhaps the most excitement in the second half came when Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson hit Indiana’s Ben Hansbrough with an errant elbow early in the fourth quarter and big brother Tyler stepped in and angrily protected his younger brother. Thompson was issued a flagrant foul and Ben Hansbrough made one of two free throws to give the Pacers an 83-73 lead.
The Pacers remained in control the rest of the way.
It was all Cleveland early. The Cavaliers took a 54-38 lead on a jumper by Samardo Samuels with 3:39 left in the first half. Indiana closed the half with a 14-4 run to close the gap to six.
“We were down 16, we felt we were better than that,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “You make a calm mental adjustment and get back in the game possession by possession.”
George hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 58-57 in the first two minutes of the second half, then Hill made a reverse layup and was fouled. His free throw gave Indiana a 60-58 lead. The three-point play gave the Pacers their first lead since it was 2-0.
A 3-pointer by Hill gave the Pacers a 73-66 lead and the Cavaliers called a timeout. A putback by West in the closing seconds of the third quarter gave Indiana an 80-70 lead heading to the fourth.
Indiana held Cleveland to 4-for-23 shooting in the third quarter and outscored the Cavaliers 28-12 in the period. Hill had 10 points in the third quarter and George had nine.
- Miles scored 16 points in the first quarter to help the Cavaliers take a 29-25 lead. Miles was 4-for-7 from the field in the first 12 minutes while his teammates were 4-for-14.
- Cleveland didn’t have a turnover until 1:59 remained in the second quarter.
- Pacers G Lance Stephenson left the game in the third quarter after spraining his right ankle. He did not return.
- Tyler Zeller, brother of Indiana University star Cody Zeller, fouled out with eight points for the Cavs.
- Indiana C Roy Hibbert had three blocks to notch his 16th consecutive game with multiple swats.