The Cleveland Cavaliers have lost 10 straight games in Indiana. Even taking into account the difficulties the Cavs had in the post-LeBron era, it's a crazy fact, and one that would be really nice to put in the past. Cleveland will have their chance on Monday night to do just that when they visit Paul George and company. It's been a season of ups and downs for the Pacers as they adapt to life without David West and Roy Hibbert. They've remained competitive though, and will hope to go small and create problems for the Cavs.
If the Cavs keep rolling, though, it's a chance to build on what has been an impressive run of games early on for new coach Tyronn Lue.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (34-12) vs. Indiana Pacers (25-22)
When: 7:00 p.m.
Where: Banker's Life Fieldhouse -- Indianapolis, Indiana
TV: NBA tv
Enemy Blog: Indy Cornrows
(As an aside, My Morning Jacket's keyboardist is a huge Cavs fan, and incredibly knowledgeable. We go back and forth on Cavs stuff all the time)
By now, you've probably heard that Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love have all gone for 20 or more points in each of the last two games. You've probably heard that it hadn't at all this season before each of the last two games. The Cavs were built to surround those three with different players that bring different skills to the table. Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov are supposed to bring defensive versatility and rim protection. J.R. Smith is supposed to provide a high-level offensive outlet to benefit from incredible space. Iman Shumpert is there to defend and hit open shots. Matthew Dellavedova has crashed the party and brought sound defense and superb three point shooting.
But it's predicated on the Big 3 maxing out on their abilities. You don't need all three to be great every night, but when you have three high-level offensive talents, the hope is that at least one or two will. This will be the Cavs third game in four nights. They'll be on the road, and Saturday's win over the Spurs was probably emotional. You'd assume they will take care of business, but the Pacers aren't likely to roll over.
It starts with Paul George, who has bounced back incredibly from the leg injury that cost him last season. He's maintained a 55.9 true shooting rate on 30.4% usage, which is better than anyone had a right to expect. He's bounced back and forth between the three and four positions as the Pacers committed to getting smaller and more athletic. He's shooting 38% from three, and it's hard to overstate his value in the modern NBA game.
George Hill has a prominent place in any conversation about NBA players who are underrated. He was really incredible last season while Paul George was out, and it was going to be really fun to see them back and healthy together. The Pacers brought in Monta Ellis, though, and while Ellis has been alright it has led to a reduced offensive role for Hill. He remains a tough defender and capable point guard, so Kyrie Irving might have his hands full.
In general, Indiana has struggled over the last month or so. It's been a tough schedule and Paul George hasn't been tremendous. Their schedule eases up in February, so it's fair to guess that things will get a bit better for them. Frank Vogel knows that he is doing.
This is also a chance to see C.J. Miles, friend of the blog. He's fourth in minutes for the Pacers this season. His numbers aren't great, but he's been valuable playing some small-ball four. If the Cavs lose, let it be in a hailstorm of Mas Fresco daggers.