Friday night’s game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers can essentially be summed up by one word, defense.
The Cavs simply out-muscled the smaller Pacers en route to a 94-73 victory. The Cavaliers stormed out of the gates opening up a 36-18 lead after one quarter, led by nine LeBron James assists. The nine dimes ties an NBA season best for assists by any player in any quarter so far this year, and misses the Cavs single quarter record by only one.
It was apparent early that James wanted to take full advantage of Cleveland’s size supremacy and feed the big men. Shaq scored 14 first half points and big “Z” tossed in 12. All of the post feeding as well as dribble penetration led to a huge discrepancy in FT attempts.
The Cavs took 25 first half FTs to only 1 by the Pacers, helping Cleveland take a 58-44 halftime lead. Not much changed in the second half as James and the rest of the Cavs seemingly decided to swat away nearly every shot the Pacers attempted. James had four blocks, Shaq had three and Z sent out two.
The Pacers pulled to within 10 in the third quarter but would never get any closer. With a 61-38 rebound edge and attempting 39 more FTs a victory is almost inevitable. Plus it helps when you can hold your opponent to only nine fourth quarter points on 3/19 shooting. The 73 points by the Pacers was their second lowest total on the season.
James appears to be putting forth a very strong statement as a repeat MVP canidate. He poured in 23 points as well as 9 boards and 13 assists. He is now averaging over 31 points 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game throughout the month of January. Shaq also tied his season high adding 22 points and grabbing 8 boards. This win improves the Cavs record to an NBA best 37-11 and gives them their 7th straight victory.