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The Cavaliers were offensive-minded in the first quarter in Indiana and got defensive in the fourth – holding the high-powered Pacers to 16 points in the final period en route to a workmanlike 106-97 win on Wednesday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Cleveland shot 67 percent in the opening stanza, with the starting frontcourt going 9-of-12 in the quarter. The Pacers began to percolate in the second and erased the Wine and Gold’s eight-point lead in just under three minutes.
Neither team could get much breathing room after that point until Indiana managed to open up a six-point lead in the third. Things went from bad to worse at that point when, with just under five minutes to play in the quarter, Indy’s Travis Deiner went for a loose ball and rolled into Daniel Gibson’s left leg.
The injury looked devastating at first, but X-rays were negative, and Boobie – who, at the time was 5-for-5 from beyond the arc – escaped with a sprained ankle. He’ll be evaluated on Thursday in Cleveland.
The Pacers maintained a three-point lead until late into the fourth, but with the score tied at 94-94, the Cavaliers completely clamped down on Jim O’Brien’s club – with LeBron James, Larry Hughes and Zydrunas Ilgauskas keying a 12-3 run to finish the ballgame.
LeBron notched his second triple-double in as many nights, becoming the first player to do that twice in a season since Magic Johnson back in 1988. James was 11-for-22 from the field for 31 points, adding 14 boards and 12 assists to his jaw-dropping boxscore. For good measure, the young King added two steals and a mammoth first-quarter blocked shot against Mike Dunleavy.
“(LeBron) is the MVP,” praised Coach Mike Brown. “He doesn’t just score, he doesn’t just get people easy shots and rebound. He does those things, plus he defends. He guarded twos tonight, he guarded threes and he guarded Troy Murphy at the four-spot. The guy is the MVP of the league.”
“I’m just happy we got the win, especially considering it was a back-to-back on the road,” said James. “I don’t take for granted whether we’re down or whether we’re up. I just try to get us in a position to be close and win the game at the end.”
But No. 23 got a lot of help on Wednesday night. Ilgauskas was huge on the glass – grabbing a game-high 17 boards to go with 14 points and a game-high three blocks. Drew Gooden pitched in with 17 points of his own as the Cavaliers’ frontcourt combined for 62 points and 35 rebounds.
“I shot the ball poorly in the first three quarters, even with some good looks,” said Ilgauskas. “I missed some easy shots. But in the fourth quarter I got the same looks and I was able to make them.”
Larry Hughes continued his stellar month, adding 19 points on 7-for-16 shooting. Daniel Gibson was on his way to a huge night before the third-quarter injury and finished with 15 points – going a perfect 5-of-5 from long-distance – in just 19 minutes of action.
Cleveland out-rebouned the Pacers, especially on the offensive glass, and outscored them, 36-24, in the paint. The Cavaliers only committed four turnovers in the second half.
Danny Granger led the Pacers with 30 points and Troy Murphy chipped in with 20. Jeff Foster led Indiana with 15 boards.
The Wine and Gold have now won their last three on the road and have lost their last three at home. They’ll try to turn that around when they welcome the Wizards to The Q for a Friday night tilt.
“On Saturday, I’ll see how I feel during practice,” said the Wild Thing. “And I’ll go from there.”