Pacers vs Cavaliers

Turner Turning Heads with Defensive Prowess

Dec. 30, 2020 - Pacers center Myles Turner and Nate Bjorkgren discuss Turner's strong start to the season on the defensive end, where he has blocked four shots over the first four games.

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Turner Turning Heads with Defensive Prowess

Dec. 30, 2020 - Pacers center Myles Turner and Nate Bjorkgren discuss Turner's strong start to the season on the defensive end, where he has blocked four shots over the first four games.
Dec 30, 2020  |  02:50

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room – Dec. 29, 2020

Dec. 29, 2020 – Nate Bjorkgren, Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon speak with the media following Indiana’s 116-111 loss to the Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Dec 29, 2020  |  02:54

Game Preview: Pacers vs Cavaliers

Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020 at 3:00 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Pacers.com Game Preview presented by DraftKings

Matchup

After splitting a two-game series against the Boston Celtics, the Pacers eye a return to the win column in an afternoon bout against the Cleveland Cavaliers on New Year's Eve. Though the Pacers built an 11-point lead after three quarters, the Celtics roared back in the fourth to give Indiana its first loss of the 2020-21 NBA season on Tuesday night.

Though the Blue & Gold dropped consecutive games against the Cavaliers in this year's short preseason, this game is expected to be vastly different. Coach Nate Bjorkgren's high-speed offense is setting in, and the Cavaliers appear to be much-improved. Indiana's division rivals began their 2020-21 campaign on a three-game winning streak before the Knicks limited them to just 86 points in a loss on Tuesday. Veteran Cavalier forward Kevin Love did not play in that contest due to a right calf strain and is expected to be re-evaluated in three-to-four weeks.

Cleveland continues to be rewarded with the stellar play of third-year guard Collin Sexton. The former Alabama standout is averaging 25.3 points over his first four games, good enough for 15th in the NBA. The Blue & Gold's lengthy backcourt duo of Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo will certainly have their hands full, as he is averaging 53.5 percent shooting from the floor, including 53.8 percent from beyond the arc. Rotational defense will be a must-have to stop Sexton.

The Pacers' big men will also have to fend off a familiar foe down low in Andre Drummond. Drummond, the NBA's current rebound leader (15.3 rebounds per game), has given Indiana fits in the past when he played for the Detroit Pistons. The ninth-year veteran from UConn notched 18 points and a game-high 17 rebounds against the Knicks on Tuesday night.

As for Indiana's offensive side, all five starters are averaging in double figures with Oladipo leading the way. The former Hoosier is averaging 22.7 points over three games this season, including 24 in Tuesday night's loss against the Celtics. Domantas Sabonis and Brogdon are close behind, averaging 21.8 and 20.8 points per game apiece. Coach Bjorkgren's offensive scheme of spreading the ball around and finding the open man has paid dividends early on this season. The squad is averaging 10.9 more points than last season through its first four games.

Projected Starters

Pacers: PG - Malcolm Brogdon, SG - Victor Oladipo, SF - Aaron Holiday, PF - Domantas Sabonis, C - Myles Turner
Cavaliers: PG - Darius Garland, SG - Collin Sexton, SF - Cedi Osman, PF - Larry Nance Jr., C - Andre Drummond

Injury Report

Pacers: Goga Bitadze - out (right ankle sprain), Brian Bowen II - out (partial groin tear), Jeremy Lamb - out (left knee rehabilation), T.J. Warren - out (sore left foot)

Cavaliers: Matthew Dellavedova - out (concussion), Kevin Love - out (right calf strain), Isaac Okoro - out (left foot sprain – health and
safety protocols), Kevin Porter Jr. - out (personal reasons), Dylan Windler - out (left hand fracture)

Last Meeting

Feb. 29, 2020: A 30-point night on 14-of-20 shooting from T.J. Warren propelled Indiana to a 113-104 victory over the Cavs in the initial game of an eventual five-game road trip for the Blue & Gold. Warren's stellar night was bolstered by Malcolm Brogdon's 22-point, eight-assist performance, and double-doubles from both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.

It was a tight contest that saw six lead changes in the first half of the final frame. A jumper from Brogdon with 6:41 remaining then put the Blue & Gold ahead for the next several minutes. After a Kevin Love 3-pointer trimmed Indiana's lead to four with 2:06 remaining, both sides came up empty on their next offensive trips. Turner then slammed the door shut with a 3-point dagger with just 59.1 seconds remaining. It was the second clutch three he'd hit in as many games. The big man drilled a triple with just seconds remaining to seal the deal against the Portland Trail Blazers 48 hours prior.

The Pacers finished with a 4-1 record on their road trip.

Noteworthy

  • Indiana currently holds a +52 point margin in the third quarter through four games.
  • In three games, Victor Oladipo is shooting 61.4 percent from the floor, including 56.3 percent from 3-point range. His shooting percentage is currently the 16th-best in the league.
  • Myles Turner is averaging a league-leading 5.0 blocks per game, two blocks more than second-place Chris Boucher of the Toronto Raptors. He tallied three blocks against the Celtics on Tuesday night.

Broadcast Information TV & Radio Listings »

TV: FOX Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)





by Brendan Rourke
Pacers.com Contributor

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