Though they put together a memorable second-half rally, the Pacers came up just short on Monday night against the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kyrie Irving scored eight points in overtime to lead Cleveland to a 111-106 victory. The win was the fifth straight for the Cavs (35-12), who simultaneously denied the Pacers' (25-23) attempt to string together a third consecutive victory.
Looking for their second straight overtime win after outlasting the Nuggets on Saturday, the Pacers took an early lead in the extra period, thanks to a couple Myles Turner jumpers. Kyrie Irving responded with five straight points to give Cleveland a three-point lead before Jordan Hill scored on consecutive possessions to put the Pacers back in front.
LeBron James' jumper gave Cleveland a 105-104 lead with 1:40 left in overtime and Irving added a pair of free throws to extend the margin to three with 43.2 seconds to play. Monta Ellis hit two foul shots on the other end to cut the lead back to one.
On the ensuing possession, Irving somehow found himself wide open at the top of key, but missed the open three. Nonetheless, James reeled in the crucial rebound and the Pacers were forced to foul with the shot clock now off. Irving hit both free throws with 13.7 seconds to play.
George Hill missed a jumper, allowing James to rack up one more rebound and sink two free throws to seal the win for the victors.
"Very, very frustrating, because we put together a solid game and were in position to win this one," All-Star forward Paul George said. "It's been the story of the season for us – play well enough to win it and lose it late in the game."
Despite his last miss, Hill was excellent offensively, scoring a team-high 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting (4-for-8 from 3-point range) to go along with four rebounds and two assists. Jordan Hill, starting his second straight game at center in place of the injured Ian Mahinmi (sore lower back), added 17 points, six boards, and four assists.
Turner posted the first double-double of his young career, finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds (six offensive), and four blocks.
George, however, struggled to find a rhythm, making just 3-of-15 shots and committing five turnovers, though he did dish out eight assists. The 6-9 forward finished with 11 points in just under 40 minutes.
"You have to stay positive in this league," Turner said. "That's what we have to strive to do. We're still in playoff contention. The East is very close right now."
Irving led all scorers with 25 points and seven assists. James, the four-time league MVP, added 24 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists.
Despite 15 first-half points from George Hill, the Pacers trailed the Cavs after two quarters, 60-49. But Indiana made some significant adjustments at the break and dominated the third quarter.
Ellis, who was just 1-for-6 from the field at halftime, hit his first three shots to ignite a 12-2 run that cut the Cavs' lead to just one. Later, rookie Turner, himself just 2-for-7 in the first half, scored six straight points on a high-arcing jumper and a pair of putbacks as Indiana retook the lead.
Those putbacks really set the tone, as the Pacers collected eight offensive rebounds in the third quarter alone, while simultaneously clamping down on the defensive end. Indiana outscored Cleveland 12-2 in second chance points in the period and 30-15 overall, limiting the Cavs to just 5-for-19 shooting (26.3 percent).
The Cavs clawed back and tied the game on three separate occasions, but a couple big plays by a few of the Pacers' more inexperienced players helped provide another cushion.
First, Turner tipped a jump ball on the defensive end directly to a streaking Solomon Hill, and the third-year player raced to the other end for a two-handed dunk that gave Indiana a 91-89 lead. Shortly thereafter, James corralled a defensive rebound and appeared headed coast-to-coast for a game-tying slam, only to be met at the rim by Turner, who pinned the ball against the backboard.
Ellis added a runner 30 seconds later that doubled the lead with four minutes to go. The score remained the same until J.R. Smith's 3-pointer made it 93-92 with 1:58 to play.
James converted a runner of his own with 1:14 remaining to give Cleveland a one-point lead, but George found George Hill on the other end standing alone on the left wing. Hill buried his fourth 3-pointer of the night to put the Blue & Gold back in front with 53.7 seconds to play.
Kyrie Irving answered with a jumper in the lane nine seconds later that tied the game at 96. George Hill missed a jumper on the other end, but Kevin Love grabbed Lavoy Allen on the rebound, giving the Pacers the ball with 20.7 seconds left and the shot clock turned off.
All that Indiana could manage was an Ellis fadeaway, which clamored off the backboard as the buzzer sounded. Turner admitted afterwards that he forgot to set a cross screen, which sent the play awry.
"That last play was on me," Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said after the loss. "I've got a young kid in a crunch time situation. I need to look him in the eye and tell him what to do."
After a 2-2 homestand, the Pacers now hit the road for a pair of contests. They'll be in Brooklyn on Wednesday and Atlanta on Friday before returning to The Fieldhouse to host the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, Feb. 6.
Inside the Numbers
In total, six Pacers players finished in double figures. Ellis had 14 points on 5-for-18 shooting, while Solomon Hill added 10 points in 19:56 off the bench.
All five starters scored at least 14 points for Cleveland. Love and Smith each finished with 19 points, while Tristan Thompson (14 points and 12 rebounds) recorded his 13th double-double of the year.
Cleveland's 15 third quarter points were the fewest by a Pacers opponent in that period all season.
Indiana's 17 offensive rebounds were their second-most in any game this season. They collected 21 offensive boards in a win over Boston way back on Nov. 4. Turner led the way with six offensive boards, while Lavoy Allen added four.
The Cavaliers shot 50 percent from the field in the victory, while the Pacers posted a .426 field goal percentage.
You Can Quote Me On That
"There are plenty of positives tonight. We are an improving team. We’ve changed, we’re evolving and we’ve got great promise to have a strong second half of the season. It’s frustrating too, but I’m encouraged. Our two best scorers had off shooting nights and we had a chance to beat the best team in the East." -Vogel
"I forgot the play and that’s frustrating. I’m really frustrated about it. It’s behind me now. I gotta move past it. I put my teammates in a rough position by doing that." -Turner on the last play of regulation
"The final four minutes of a majority of our last games have been the reason why we haven’t come out with a W. We play at a slower pace in the four minutes, have some turnovers, didn’t get some shots. I think we just need to be aggressive. I think we’re trying to play with a lead, trying to keep it, and slowing down the way we’re playing. I think we just need to have the confidence to keep playing the way we’ve been playing. That alone can put away a game." -Solomon Hill
"We’re just dialed in a little bit more, we got a little down there in the third quarter but we just kept playing, we kept pushing the ball down the floor, and I think that is helping us on the defensive end." -Love on what's gone right during the Cavs' winning streak
"That rookie, Myles Turner, is going to be a force in this league." -Irving
Stat of the Night
The Pacers attempted just 14 free throws on the night, their third-fewest foul shots in any game this season. Curiously, their season low in free throw attempts (10) also came in an overtime game, a 107-103 loss in Houston on Jan. 10.
- Cleveland's win snapped the Cavaliers' 10-game regular season losing streak at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Prior to Monday, the Cavs hadn't won in Indianapolis since Jan. 29, 2010.
- With the loss, the Pacers fall to 1-5 on the season in overtime games, though Monday was the first time they've lost an overtime game at home.
- Jordan Hill is now just three points away from reaching 3,000 for his career.
The Pacers travel to Brooklyn to take on the Nets on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 PM ET.