Andy Lyons | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – Through the first 30 games of this NBA season, the Indiana Pacers (20-11) had avoided that ugly loss to one of the league’s bottom feeders.
That ended on Tuesday night, and so did the NBA’s longest winning streak.
One of the poorest offensive nights of the season and the inability to execute down the stretch led to the Cavaliers’ buzzer-beating victory over the Pacers.
Larry Nance Jr.’s tip-in at the buzzer gave the Cavs a 92-91 victory over the Pacers.
“I thought we could really build on the momentum that we had,” Nate McMillan said of his team seeing their 7-game win streak end on Tuesday night.
“I told our guys, ‘Don’t get bored of winning.’ There are no gimme’s in this league. We didn’t look at Cleveland like that, but we didn’t play hard enough and we weren’t sharp enough to win this game.”
The Pacers were definitely not sharp enough late in Tuesday’s loss.
Star guard Victor Oladipo missed three free throws in the final 45 seconds, giving Cleveland the final possession chance that they needed.
It was Nance who took advantage of a defensive switch with Oladipo on him to tip in the game-winning shot (although his offensive rebound could have easily been called a foul). That came after Oladipo missed two free throws on the prior possession.
“I just have to be better,” Oladipo said after the Pacers’ first loss in the month of December. “I have to be better down the stretch. I have to make free throws. That’s my job as a leader on this team, to step up and make big free throws, make big shots, make big decisions down the stretch. This one’s on me and I’ll be better in the future. It was a tough loss for us, and unfortunately stuff like this happens. We are a resilient group, so I’m looking forward to seeing how we respond to this.”
Even though Cleveland was missing 5 key rotational players on Tuesday, they still applied plenty of game pressure on the Pacers.
Indiana shot 39.8 percent from the floor on Tuesday, including just 18.2 percent (4-of-22) from behind the arc.
Domantas Sabonis (17 points and 9 rebounds) led the offensive output that was not enough for the win.
The Pacers will have a quick turnaround, as they take on the Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday night.
Three Pacers’ Takeaways:
–No Closing: Throughout their 20-10 start to the season, Indiana had done a very nice job in closing out games when those opportunities had developed. That was not the case on Tuesday, with their best player missing 3 free throws in the final 45 seconds. Those early-season free throw issues for the Pacers finally cost them on Tuesday. Indiana was just 13-of-21 from the line against the Cavs, with those huge misses late. Oladipo has been a tremendous closer for the Pacers this season. If he was able to take care of those freebies late, the Pacers would have escaped on Tuesday night and did what they needed to do on the first night of a back-to-back at home. His misses proved costly, with Indiana also failing to secure a game-clinching rebound once Myles Turner was switched on the final defensive possession, giving Larry Nance a rebounding advantage over the smaller Oladipo.
–Missed Shots Aplenty Against Rare Zone Look: Honestly, the Pacers got some decent looks on Tuesday night, enough clean ones to shoot better than 40 percent. It wasn’t like Cleveland’s defense was turning Indiana over routinely or forcing contested shots every trip down the floor. The Pacers committed just 9 turnovers on Tuesday, which is a very manageable number. But the guard play was very poor when it came to shooting the basketball. Guards Victor Oladipo, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph and Tyreke Evans combined to shoot an ugly 9-of-36 from the floor and 2-of-12 from behind the arc. After seeing some rare zone defense from the Knicks on Sunday, the Pacers should have been prepared for the matchup zone style that Cleveland tried to throw at them as well. Clearly, they were not with a 37-of-93 night from the floor.
–You Had Avoided Theses Losses: One of the best attributes from the Pacers this season has been their ability to avoid losses like we saw on Tuesday. Indiana had done a great job in taking care of the league’s worst players. Cleveland is one of those teams when they are at full strength, and they weren’t close to that on Tuesday. We will chalk this up as an anomaly for the Pacers, but that still doesn’t excuse them for a loss that puts even more pressure on bouncing back away from home in 3 of their next 4 games. Up first is a quick turnaround Wednesday, as they face one of their toughest matchups of the season, on the road in Toronto.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-at Raptors (Wednesday, 12/19)
-at Nets (Friday, 12/21)
-Wizards (Sunday, 12/23)
-at Hawks (Wednesday, 12/26)
-Pistons (Friday, 12/28)
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