INDIANAPOLIS — The Cleveland Cavaliers finished with their lowest scoring total in nearly a year as they shot 35 percent as a team and their starting backcourt shot a combined 13-of-38.
Yet Cavs coach Mike Brown was pleased with the improvement he saw offensively in an 89-74 loss at the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.
“As crazy as this sounds, I thought tonight was our best offensive night,” Brown said. “From the standpoint the ball moved and bodies moved.”
Brown was more upset with the offensive effort in Friday’s loss at the Charlotte Bobcats because he didn’t see players setting good screens, cutting to the basket or moving the ball. He thought the Cavs did all of those things against one of the league’s best defensive teams in the Pacers, they just couldn’t get a shot to drop.
Dion Waiters responded from his second-half benching Friday with 17 points and Kyrie Irving had 15 points and five assists, but Irving shot 6-of-17 and Waiters was 7-of-21.
It was hardly just the two of them.
The only players that had successful nights shooting were Anderson Varejao (6-of-9) and Jarrett Jack (4-of-8).
Tristan Thompson, Earl Clark, Waiters and Irving — 80 percent of the starting lineup — were a combined 30 percent (14-of-47).
It was the Cavs’ lowest offensive output since they lost at the Minnesota Timberwolves 91-73 on Dec. 7 last year.
“A few shots went in and out, they contested a lot, but that’s what makes the Pacers a good ballclub,” Irving said. “Shots didn’t fall tonight. When your shot isn’t going and they’re making shots here and there, a few turnovers here and there, it kind of got out of hand.”
The Cavs actually did a nice job defensively of holding down a Pacers team that averaged 96 points in its first two games.
The Pacers shot 42 percent, and the Cavs had 15 steals, including four from Waiters and three from Varejao.
“Every time we made a mistake, they made us pay for it,” Brown said. “But with the mistakes we made, they’re at 41 percent and 89 points. You hope that gives you a chance to win.”
Brown spent the afternoon watching his son, Elijah, score 18 points off the bench in Butler’s 93-68 win over DePauw in an exhibition game. It was a rare treat for Brown, who just happened to be in town on the day of the game.
“To be in Hinkle Fieldhouse to watch my son, that was unbelievable for me,” Brown said.
“That was really good.”
Elijah watched the Cavs’ game Saturday night with his teammates from a suite inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Only one catch: His mom was there, too.
“We’ll see how that turns out,” Brown joked.
Varejao’s six rebounds Saturday give him 3,565 for his career, moving him past Larry Nance and into sixth place on the Cavs’ all-time rebounding list.
* Anthony Bennett, still searching for his first NBA basket, blew a wide-open layup in the second half Saturday. He’s now 0-for-12 to start the season, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.