The Indiana Pacers are pretty damn good at basketball. The Pacers lead the league in defensive efficiency last season and they took LeBron and the Heat to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference Finals. This year, they look even better. Paul George has matured (and allegedly grown two inches), Lance Stephens0n has improved and Roy Hibbert continues to expand his game (now with a jumper!). The Pacers are really really good.
And they gave the Cavs fits.
Paul George finished with 21 points and 13 boards, Lance Stephenson led everyone with 22 points and the Pacers methodically put away the Cavaliers, 89-74. The Pacers dominated the glass, holding the Cavaliers to just six offensive boards (the Cavs had 16 and 11 against the Nets and Bobcats, respectively) and out rebounded Cleveland by a margin of 51-37.
The Pacers held the Cavs to 38% shooting and their length frustrated the Cavalier backcourt. Both Irving and Waiters finished with more shots than points. Irving went 6-17 and finished with 15 points and Dion shot 7-21 for 17 points. The front court was bothered by Indy’s strong D as well; Thompson went 1-5 and Earl Clark was 0-4. Anderson Varejao was the only Cavalier to shoot decently well (6-9 from the floor), but the Pacers were more than happy to give Andy that 15 elbow jumper. To his credit, Andy knocked ‘em down, but I imagine Indiana coach Frank Vogel will live with those results.
Also, they did all this without starting point guard George Hill.
The Cavs are clearly out of sync in this early part of the season. When the ball isn’t stagnating, the Cavaliers are over passing. They’ll forego decent-to-good looks and try to make the perfect pass. Varejao, in particular, is really forcing the issue, often forcing interior bounce passes that, should they make it through the defense, doesn’t allow his teammate a particularly good look (and I won’t even his alley oop to Earl Clark). The Cavs will eventually figure themselves out and get on the same page but the Pacers are not the team you want to face when you’re out of sorts.