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Wrap-Up – For three quarters, Cleveland went toe-to-toe with the East’s top team; but in the final period, that team showed the Cavaliers what got them to the top of the Conference. At the end of the third quarter, the Cavs held a one-point lead, but in the fourth, the Pacers outscored the Wine and Gold, 26-10, to hand Cleveland its sixth straight loss – a 91-76 defeat on New Year’s Eve in Indiana.
The Cavs were led by Anderson Varejao, who doubled-up with 14 points and 11 boards. Dion Waiters followed up with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, adding four boards and a pair of assists. Kyrie Irving rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures with 10 points and a team-leading five assists. But more important than his final line, Irving was able to return from a third-quarter scare in which he injured his left knee on a non-contact drive to the basket. Kyrie left the floor under assistance, went to the locker room and returned to action early in in the fourth quarter.
The Cavs dropped their eighth straight game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The NBA’s top defensive team held Cleveland to 36 percent shooting and used their size to top the Cavaliers in the paint, 42-26. Paul George led everyone with 21 points. Tristan Thompson led all rebounders with 13 boards.
Turning Point – At the 9:18 mark in the fourth quarter, the Cavs trailed by just a point. But they committed three turnovers on the next four possessions and Indiana made them pay for each one. The Wine and Gold never recovered from that run. Kyrie Irving hit a pair of free throws with 6:16 left in regulation and the Cavaliers scored just two more points the rest of the way.
Game Ball – Anderson Varejao – Decidedly undersized against Roy Hibbert, the Wild Thing gave Indiana’s All-Star center all he could handle – going 5-for-13 from the floor and 4-of-6 from the stripe. Andy added two assists, a steal and a blocked shot. Six of his 11 boards were off the offensive glass.
By the Numbers – 500 … games that Anderson Varejao has now played for the Cavaliers –10th on the all-time list and 13 games behind Craig Ehlo. Varejao is now 5th in franchise history in total rebounds, 3rd in offensive rebounds, 6th in defensive rebounds, 9th in steals and 8th in blocks.
Quotable – Jarrett Jack, on trying to beat the league’s top road team in their own building …
”We just didn’t do enough of the things you need to do to win, especially on the road. They picked up their intensity and we did not respond to it. We have to take pride in every possession. We can’t have a couple of good possessions here or there, especially against a team of this caliber, especially in their building.”
Up Next – The Cavaliers start the new year on Thursday night, looking to snap their six-game slide when they welcome the Magic to The Q. The Wine and Gold get back on the road on Saturday night, traveling to Brooklyn to take on the struggling Nets. The Cavs are back in Cleveland on Sunday night, looking to avenge Tuesday’s loss when they welcome the Pacers to The Q. On Tuesday night, the Cavs host the Sixers in their final game before embarking on a five-game West Coast swing.