Random dribbles on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 106-102 streak-snapping loss to the host Indiana Pacers on Friday.
1. Well, all good things must end. For the third time in Cavs’ history, it ended at 13. We won’t get too far into it, because they’ve been playing good basketball and for the most part, played pretty well on this night. As Kyle Korver told reporters in Indiana, “Sometimes, you just miss.”
2. Korver and the other reserves struggled, and that’s a rarity these days (Korver finished with three points on 1-of-5 shooting). And yet the Cavs were in it until the end — in a road game against a better-than-expected Pacers team. When it comes to the end of a winning streak, things could be worse.
3. LeBron James finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. James to reporters on the loss: “The shot just wasn’t going for us. We played great basketball (during the winning streak) and we want to continue to play great basketball.”
4. In other words, no one is thinking the season is over here. The Cavs are likely to go through at least one more big low, and one more major high, before we get to the playoffs. “We were pretty low,” Korver said of the start of the season. But during the streak, the Cavs learned “what we can be as a team,” he added.
5. Korver and LeBron implied the Cavs (18-8) just missed shots they normally make, and there is indeed a lot of truth to that. But they also got away from what’s been working. For the first time in a while, the offense went stagnant for long stretches.
6. Nor were the Cavs as aggressive as they’ve been in recent weeks, and part of that may have been plain old fatigue. Overall, though, the Pacers played with more energy and were clearly more physical. That’s saying something, because Indiana is typically a pretty finesse team.
7. For instance, the Cavs scored 28 points in the paint in the first half — but just 12 in the second. It was a big reason they led by six points at halftime, and a reason they ended up losing.
8. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue to reporters: “We started slow in the first quarter (when the Pacers built a 13-2 lead), and started slow in the third. Both gave them life.”
9. Meanwhile, the Pacers (15-11) are the surprise of the league after dealing star forward Paul George to Oklahoma City before the season. One national publication gave them a D-minus for the trade that delivered Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis from the Thunder. But Oladipo (game-high 33 points) is looking like an All-Star and the Pacers like a playoff team yet again.
10. Oladipo missed some free throws in the closing moments that kept the Cavs in it, and the first thing he said after the game was something that would make Larry Bird smile. “I’m gonna shoot about a thousand free throws now,” Oladipo told FOX Sports Indiana.
11. Later, he praised the Pacers for showing lots of fight, which they did. But even he admitted the Cavs “missed some open looks.”
12. Kevin Love finished with 20 points and seven boards, and J.R. Smith scored 15 on 5-of-10 shooting on 3-pointers.
13. Smith missed a couple that could have made things even more interesting — but his final make was a remarkable fadeaway from the baseline that made up for the misfires. Most importantly, Smith kept firing, and make or miss, that’s what the Cavs want to see.
14. Dwyane Wade led the bench bunch with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and four assists. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Cavs rest Wade soon, perhaps for Saturday’s home game vs. Philadelphia.
15. As an aside, word is the 76ers will rest Joel Embiid on Saturday. The ultra-talented center is still not playing in back-to-back games, and the Sixers have another one Sunday (at New Orleans).
16. Finally, Lue on the end of the winning streak: “It was a good streak. Now we just gotta go start a new one.”