INDIANAPOLIS: The Indiana Pacers were almost unrecognizable in the first half against the Cavaliers. 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 the Pacers have allowed in a half since they joined the NBA in 1976.
“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.”
The Pacers, one of the league’s best defensive teams, were 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 Pacers 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 weren’t really playing defense.”
The Pacers came back in a big way and held the Cavs to their lowest-scoring half of the season.
West had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and George Hill added 17 points as the Pacers snapped a two-game skid, holding the Cavs to 8-for-41 shooting in the second half.
The Cavs couldn’t build on Tuesday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers. C.J. Miles scored 28 points for the second consecutive game, but Kyrie Irving was held to nine points on 4-for-12 shooting in his second game back after missing 11 in a row with a broken finger.
Cavs 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 Cavs 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 Cavs forward Tristan Thompson hit the Pacers’ Ben Hansbrough with an errant elbow early in the fourth quarter and big brother Tyler Hansbrough 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 Cavs early. They took a 54-38 lead on a jumper by Samardo Samuels with 3:39 left in the first half. The Pacers closed the half with a 14-4 run to close the gap to six.
George made 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 Cavs called a timeout. A putback by West in the closing seconds of the third quarter gave the Pacers an 80-70 lead heading to the fourth. The Pacers held the Cavs to 4-for-23 shooting in the third quarter and outscored them 28-12 in the quarter. Hill had 10 points in the third quarter and George had nine.