CLEVELAND: Spencer Hawes cost himself another $4,000 Sunday sticking up for a teammate. Given the fight the Cavaliers demonstrated throughout an impressive 90-76 win against the Indiana Pacers, it was money well spent.

Mike Brown warned his players before the game how physical and aggressive the Pacers play. The Cavs couldn’t simply match it. If they wanted to remain alive in this Eastern Conference playoff chase, they had to exceed it. They did.

The Pacers might be the best team in the East, but they’re fumbling to the finish. They missed open looks all day, were beaten up and down the floor by a more aggressive Cavs team and were essentially blown out for their third loss in four games and their fourth straight on the road.

“It’s playoff basketball,” Dion Waiters said. “They’re playing for seeding, we’re trying to get in.”

Against all odds, and without their best player, the Cavs are inching closer. They’re just 2½ games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot with a big head-to-head match against the Hawks looming Friday.

Not backing down

Waiters scored 19 points, including nine consecutive in the fourth quarter when the team was struggling to produce, and Tristan Thompson had 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Jarrett Jack had 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds and all five starters finished in double figures after failing to crack even 80 points in any of the first three meetings between these teams.

“We didn’t back down,” Waiters said. “We kept coming at them all night and we got a huge win.”

Varejao leaves game

Now as they hope to welcome back Kyrie Irving, they’ll wait to see if they’ve again lost Anderson Varejao.

Varejao left the game late in the second quarter with a strained right shoulder and did not return. The Cavs are taking today off, but presumably will examine both Varejao and Irving. Irving said last week he is hopeful of playing Wednesday when the Cavs play at the Orlando Magic, which would be a big boost for a team that has managed to go 4-4 without him.

The Cavs took the fight right at the best team in the East on Sunday, scoring the game’s first eight points before the Pacers recovered.

The Cavs trailed exactly one minute, retaking the lead late in the first quarter and spending most of the rest of the day extending it.

They made every key stop and every big basket whenever the Pacers tried to make a run, extending the lead to 21 in the fourth quarter.

Frustrated Pacers

“We’re losing games at an alarming rate to teams that are inferior to us,” the Pacers’ David West said. “We can’t figure out a way to perform better. We can’t figure out a way to draw together.”

West’s frustrations sizzled with the Pacers trailing by 17 in the fourth quarter. When Matthew Dellavedova reached in for a foul, West responded by throwing a hard elbow into Delly’s chest while going up for a shot.

West has at least five inches and 50 pounds on Delly, who crashed to the court after the blow. Hawes stepped in and barked at West, who responded by shoving Hawes near his throat.

The pushing and shouting resulted in a double technical, which was Hawes’ 12th this season and will be met with a warning letter from the league.

“I appreciate it, even though it might cost him a little bit of money,” Dellavedova said. “I’ll give him some Tim Tams to make up for it.”

Tim Tams are a chocolate dessert biscuit from Australia. They better taste really good — Hawes has now paid $35,000 in technicals and ejections this year.

Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at https://ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.