INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The Indiana Pacers are more than familiar with facing the Cleveland Cavaliers when LeBron James rests, so they didn’t get distracted by the four-time NBA MVP’s absence Wednesday night.
The Pacers beat the LeBron-less Cavaliers 103-92 to improve to 3-1 at home in the past two years when James sits.
“I found out when Coach (Nate McMillan) came in and said, ‘LeBron’s not playing,'” said Pacers point guard Jeff Teague, who had 20 points and eight assists. “I didn’t know, but we needed a win. We weren’t worried about who was playing or who was going to be on the floor, we were just going to go out and compete.”
Jeff Teague added 20 points and eight assists, and Thaddeus Young had 16 points to help the Pacers improve to 6-1 at home and 6-6 overall.
James sat out for the first time this season. Averaging 23.4 points and 8.9 rebounds, he rested after playing Tuesday night in a home victory over Toronto. Guard J.R. Smith also missed the game because of a sprained right ankle.
“It doesn’t matter about LeBron not playing,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We just lost the game.”
Kevin Love led Cleveland with 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving had 24 points and seven assists. The Cavaliers dropped to 9-2 after matching the best start in franchise history with the victory over Toronto on Tuesday night.
“We had our chances,” Love said. “We cut the lead to four or five a couple times, and it just felt like we either had a bad possession, had a turnover, and then that lead went to eight or nine points, having to fight kind of uphill to claw back and try to win the game, and it was too little too late.”
Indiana led 80-68 lead after three quarters. The Cavaliers cut it to four points midway through the fourth, but the Pacers put it away with a 9-2 run. C.J. Miles hit a 3-pointer for the game’s largest lead – 97-84 with 5:10 remaining.
“Of course it’s different,” Miles said about facing the Cavaliers without James. “We’re talking about him still and he didn’t even play tonight. He’s arguably the best player in our game. (But) we can’t disrespect anybody. They’ve got guys who can play basketball.”
Cavaliers: Smith has missed the last three games. The last time James skipped a road game at Indiana, the Pacers prevailed 123-109 on April 6, 2016. The Cavaliers extended their NBA-record streak of games with at least 10 3-pointers to start a season to 11 games.
Pacers: G Rodney Stuckey (right hamstring strain) was scratched for the 10th consecutive game. Thanks in large part to C Myles Turner’s 2.3 blocks per game, Indiana is No. 1 in the NBA with a 6.4 average.
HICKORY NIGHT RETURNS:
Friday’s Indiana home game against Phoenix coincides with the 30th anniversary of the classic 1986 basketball movie “Hoosiers” and will be the first of six Hickory Nights, in which the Pacers will wear Hickory Huskers replica uniforms from the movie. Hoosiers screenwriter Angelo Pizzo, director David Anspaugh and some of the film’s actors, including Maris Valainis (who played Jimmy Chitwood) will be in attendance.
SEE YA DOWN THE ROAD:
The Eastern Conference rivals don’t play each other again until Feb. 8 at Indiana, then Feb. 15 at Cleveland and April 2 at Cleveland. The Cavaliers have won five in a row at home against the Pacers, who have a 93-88 series edge.
Cavaliers: Host Detroit on Friday night, then have a four-day break.
Pacers: Host Phoenix on Friday night to end a four-game homestand.