The Cavaliers played with fire in their win against the Kings, and it took some three-point heroics from LeBron James to deliver a late win. Cleveland can’t afford to fool around on Friday night against the Indiana Pacers, who, despite losing Paul George this summer, have given opposition all they can handle so far this season. We’ll see if they’re up to the task. The longest winning streak in franchise history is on the line.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (18-7) at Indiana Pacers (14-11)
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Enemy Blog: Indy Cornrows
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs injuries: Isaiah Thomas (OUT - hip), Tristan Thompson (OUT - calf), Derrick Rose(OUT, away from team/ankle injury), Iman Shumpert (OUT - left knee)
Pacers injuries: Glenn Robinson III (OUT - ankle), Edmond Sumner (OUT - knee)
Three keys to the game:
- The Pacers continue to play well, and they’ve got the sixth best offense in the NBA right now, scoring 107.6 points per 100 possessions. Defensively, they’ve fallen off, landing at 19th. That makes sense. Myles Turner is a young defender that’s not quite ready to anchor a defense, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Domantas Sabonis aren’t exactly shutdown defenders. They should improve over the course of the season, but as of now, they can be exploited.
- Indy smashed the Cavaliers in Cleveland in the two teams’ first meeting this season without Turner, and the starters roundly smashed the Cavaliers. All five starters scored at least 15 points, and Darren Collison and Thaddeus Young combined to shoot 21-28 from the field. The Cavs have improved their defense plenty since then, but the Pacers versatility of scorers across their lineup is something that’s tough to handle.
- There’s nobody on this team to even slow down LeBron James with Paul George out of town. Victor Oladipo doesn’t have the size, Thaddeus Young doesn’t have the speed and Bogdanovic simply doesn’t have the chops. James dropped 33 points on 14-22 shooting last time, but turned the ball over eight times. It is fair to suggest he’ll take better care of the ball this time.
J.R. Smith will have to limit Victor Oladipo both off the bounce as well as off the ball. Oladipo went 5-7 from three in the last game. Smith will have to embrace the challenge and focus even if his shot isn’t falling. That’s been a struggle for Smith this year, but the Cavs need him now and in the long-term.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
This has a great chance of being the game the Cavaliers finally lose. But I don’t think it happens this time. Cavs 109, Pacers 104.