Surging Pacers hold off short-handed Cavaliers 93-86
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – With LeBron James and Kyrie Irving sidelined, Rodney Stuckey scored 19 points and George Hill had his first career triple-double Friday night in the Indiana Pacers’ 93-86 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Hill finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists as Indiana won for the seventh time in nine games – including twice over the Cavaliers in the past three weeks.
James sat out with soreness in his lower back, while Irving stayed home after hurting his left shoulder. So the Cavs relied on J.R. Smith, who had 21 points, and Kevin Love, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The Cavs responded by jumping to a 21-8 lead midway through the first quarter. But without their two All-Stars, the Cavs couldn’t maintain that pace.
Indiana led 51-45 at halftime, extended it to 74-59 in the third quarter and twice fended off fourth-quarter charges to hold on.
The Pacers and Atlanta are now the only teams to beat Cleveland twice this season.
For the Cavs, it was another miserable trip to Indianapolis, where they’ve lost 10 straight regular-season games. Their last win in Indy came Jan. 29, 2010.
And this one seemed doomed from the moment coach David Blatt decided to sit James, one night after he scored a season-high 42 points. James wasn’t even on the bench with his teammates for Cleveland’s third loss in 21 games. James has missed 11 games this season, nine because of a back injury.
But Cleveland still had chances.
It used a 9-0 fourth-quarter run to close to 76-70 with 7:18 left. Indiana answered with nine straight points, then gave up 11 straight to the Cavs, who got within 85-81 with 1:35 left.
Stuckey 3-pointer with 1:14 to go made it 88-81 and Indiana closed it out at the free throw line.
Cavaliers: Friday night marked the first time the Cavaliers played without Irving and James since Jan. 5 at Philadelphia. The two All-Stars average a combined 41.7 points and 12.5 assists. Not surprisingly, Cleveland lost both of those games.
Pacers: Paul George has returned to practice, but he’s still not suiting up for Indiana. The two-time All-Star sat on the Pacers bench dressed in a brown sport coat and dark slacks. He’s hoping to make his season debut in mid-March, less than eight months after having surgery to repair his broken right leg.
Cavaliers: Visit Houston on Sunday.
Pacers: Host Philadelphia on Sunday.