Aaron Nesmith
(NBAE/Getty Images)

Game Rewind: Pacers 120, Cavaliers 129

Friday, April 12 at 7:30 PM ET at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

Game Recap: Cavaliers 129, Pacers 120

Game Recap

The Pacers had a chance to clinch a playoff spot on Friday night in Cleveland. Needing a win, they trailed by just two with under a minute remaining, but couldn't get over the hump.

The Cavaliers (48-33) held on for a 129-120 victory. With the loss, Indiana (46-35) remains in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They can still secure a top-six seed and a playoff berth with either a win on Sunday against Atlanta or a Philadelphia loss to Brooklyn.

The Pacers could finish anywhere from fifth to eighth depending on this weekend's results. The top six teams advance directly to the playoffs, while the teams that finish seventh through 10th must compete in the Play-In Tournament for the final two playoff spots.

"I feel like we're all aware of it, but not pressing about it and making it a big deal," Pacers guard T.J. McConnell said. "Obviously the playoffs is where we want to go and we have another opportunity to get there."

The Blue & Gold trailed for virtually the entire night, but remained close until the final minute, as they managed to turn an 11-point halftime deficit to three entering the fourth quarter.

The Cavs maintained a narrow grip on the lead for most of the final frame. The Blue & Gold briefly got within two when Tyrese Haliburton's three made it 107-105 with 6:29 remaining, but the Cavs prevented Indiana from moving in front.

Cleveland led 120-114 following Darius Garland's 3-pointer with 3:30 remaining, but back-to-back baskets by Pascal Siakam made it a two-point game with 2:04 to play.

They forced a turnover on the next possession, but Myles Turner couldn't get a three just before the shot clock to fall. After a timeout, Cavs All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell missed a three, but Max Strus flew in to corral the offensive rebound. Given a second chance, Cleveland capitalized, as Darius Garland hit a three over Siakam to make it a 123-118 with 50.1 seconds remaining.

Andrew Nembhard drew a foul and hit both free throws to make it a one-possession game again with 41.9 seconds to play.

On the other end, Garland drove and handed off to Strus on the right wing. Tyrese Haliburton fouled Strus on a 3-point attempt with 24.3 seconds. After Strus hit two of three, Nembhard missed a deep three and the Cavs sealed the win at the 3-point line.

"We dug in (in the second half), started to get some stops so we could run and play in transition, got it close," Haliburton said. "We just didn't make enough plays in the end."

Nine Pacers scored in double figures for Indiana in the loss, with Haliburton leading the way with 19 points and 12 assists. Siakam added 19 points, while Turner tallied 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists.

Mitchell led all scorers with 33 points to go along with four rebounds, five assists, and four steals. Jarrett Allen added 29 points on 13-of-14 shooting and 13 rebounds.

The Cavs made the first run on Friday night. The run started when Mitchell converted a four-point play with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter, banking in a three through contact from Aaron Nesmith, then making the subsequent free throw. That triggered an 11-3 run over the next 1:30 that allowed Cleveland to open up a 28-18 lead.

Turnovers were a problem for the Pacers in the opening frame, as they committed six giveaways over the first 12 minutes. On the other end, Mitchell scored 13 points and Allen tallied nine points and seven rebounds as the Cavs took a 35-26 lead into the second quarter.

The hosts stretched their lead to 14 early in the ensuing frame before the Blue & Gold mounted a charge. Obi Toppin got way up for an alley-oop from McConnell to complete a 6-0 spurt and get Indiana back within single digits with 7:13 remaining in the first half.

Cleveland pushed the margin back to 13, but the Pacers responded with a 10-2 spurt highlighted by Turner throwing down a poster dunk through contact from Evan Mobley. Haliburton's three capped the run and made it 64-57 with 1:32 to play before halftime.

But Allen's three-point play and a three from Caris LeVert helped Cleveland push the margin back to 11 by the intermission, 70-59.

The margin remained near that mark for most of the third quarter, as Mitchell scored 13 for Cleveland in the frame, but Nesmith scored nine and Haliburton added eight for Indiana.

The Cavs led 95-85 at the two-minute mark before the Pacers closed the quarter with a flurry. Smith hit a three at 1:42, McConnell converted a layup at 1:05, and then Nembhard connected with Toppin on an alley-oop to make it a three-point game with 40.4 seconds left in the frame.

Allen answered with a layup on the other end, but Toppin had a response of his own, driving to the baseline and floating through the air for a two-hand slam.

After that late flurry completed a 35-point third quarter, Indiana trailed just 97-94 entering the fourth. They got within two twice, but never managed to take the lead in the final frame.

McConnell finished with 16 points and seven assists in 20 minutes off the bench. Nesmith added 15 points and six boards, Smith had 11 points and six rebounds, and Nembhard accumulated 10 points and five assists.

Toppin had 11 points, six rebounds, and two steals, but exited the game early in the fourth quarter and did not return after being diagnosed with a left ankle sprain.

Garland had 16 points and four assists for the Cavs, while LeVert tallied 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists off the bench against his former team.

The Pacers will close out the regular season by hosting Atlanta on Sunday afternoon. There are a number of different scenarios depending on the results of that and other games, but the Blue & Gold will know that they control their own destiny to clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Hawks.

"Sunday's what you play your whole season for," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's one game at home with an opportunity. And so we'll have to flush this as soon as we can and get ready."

Inside the Numbers

Haliburton recorded his 43rd double-double on Friday, the most of any Eastern Conference guard.

McConnell his recent strong play off the bench, reaching double figures for the fourth straight game and the 14th time in his last 15 contests.

Mitchell had his first 30-point game since Feb. 27. Knee soreness has limited the Cavs' All-Star guard to eight games since March 1.

The Cavs went 13-for-32 (40.6 percent) from 3-point range, while the Pacers were just 9-for-32 (28.1 percent).

Cleveland outscored Indiana 22-14 in second-chance points and pulled down 11 offensive rebounds to the Pacers' seven.

The Pacers had assists on 37 of their 46 field goals, their 19th game this season with 35 or more assists.

Indiana Pacers Postgame Media Availability (at Cleveland Cavaliers) | April 12, 2024

You Can Quote Me On That

"The first half was obviously not good enough. We struggled both sides of the ball. Allen and Mitchell had enormous nights and that was an obvious big problem. Rebounding (was a problem). And while we didn't have a lot turnovers we had some at really key times that hurt us." -Carlisle on the Pacers' slow start

"We let their key guys get going, see a couple shot go down early. For anybody in a game like this, it does wonders to their confidence. I don't think we were dialed in enough on our pick-and-roll coverage. We (allowed) way too many offensive rebounds for them as well." -Turner on the Cavs scoring 70 in the first half

"Just creating more energy. I feel like it wasn't there early on. We started getting more stops that we needed to and the one-shot defensive possessions (allowed us to get) out and (run)." -McConnell on the Pacers' second-half rally

"He's a great player. He's an All-Star, he's been All-NBA. And he's healthy. So he's a tough guy to deal with. Guys like him and Garland set up their bigs to have success and we obviously didn't rotate well enough." -Carlisle on Mitchell

"This is a maturity moment I think for this group, for a lot of guys that haven't been in this situation. You can leave no doubt this time of the year. We control our own destiny and we knew that and we know that moving forward." -Turner on the mindset entering game 82

"This is not easy. It's not supposed to be easy. We're the kind of team where it takes everybody to help us win a game. We're going to have to be better on Sunday." -Carlisle on the battle to make the playoffs

"We've worked really hard this year to be in this position...It's all up to this one game and being ready to go." -Haliburton on Sunday's game

Stat of the Night

After the Pacers lead 3-0, the Cavs tied the game with 9:57 remaining in the first quarter, moved in front 46 seconds later, and never relinquished the lead for the rest of the night.

Noteworthy

  • The Pacers and Cavs split the season series, with the Blue & Gold winning in Cleveland on Oct. 28 and at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Nov. 3. The Cavs took the final two meetings, including a 108-103 victory in Indianapolis on March 18.
  • Toppin limped off with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and headed to the locker room for an evaluation, where he was diagnosed with a sprained ankle and ruled out. Toppin is the only Pacer to appear in all 81 games this season.
  • Pacers third-year center Isaiah Jackson missed Friday's game with a left hamstring strain.
  • Indiana finished the regular season with a record of 21-20 in road games.

Up Next

The Pacers close out the regular season by hosting Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks for the annual Fan Appreciation Game presented by Kroger on Sunday, April 14 at 1:00 PM ET. Find Tickets >>