INDIANAPOLIS — With the Cavaliers’ franchise-record-tying 13-game winning streak ending with a 106-102 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, the biggest disappointment in Cleveland’s postgame locker room stemmed from news that weather issues would delay the team flight home, not the defeat.
If anything, the loss provided Cleveland a chance to reflect on the team it has become in the last 3 ½ weeks, going from a 5-7 record to holding the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
“Just showed that we’re capable of playing Cavaliers basketball,” coach Tyronn Lue said of the run. “Got a very confident unit, and tonight, we talked about it in the locker room, got to start a new streak. It was a good streak, and came in here and got beat. So it’s time to start a new one.”
Speaking to media for the first time since he rejoined the Cavs, Derrick Rose said he might need surgery for a bone spur in his left ankle.
The Cavs (18-8) will get their chance to get back on track Saturday at home against the Philadelphia 76ers, a team they beat 113-91 on the road for win No. 8 of 13 during the streak.
“Listen, that was a good streak,” said James, who earlier in the week said he wouldn’t start zeroing in on the string of success until it reached at least 25 games. “We never talked about it, we just played each game, executed each game. Streaks are meant to be broken, obviously. We came in, we knew this was going to be a tough game for us, they’ve been playing extremely well at home. But we gave ourselves a chance. That’s all you can ask for. Best thing about this league is you always, most of the time you’ve got another one less than 24 hours. We definitely have that.”
Cleveland trailed by 11 points to start the game before righting itself and taking a six-point lead into halftime. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo went off for 20 of his game-high 33 points in the third quarter to turn the momentum back in the Pacers’ favor, and the Cavs trailed by as many as seven in the fourth quarter before falling by four.
The Cavs had been especially strong in the fourth quarter during the streak, particularly Kyle Korver — whom the team started calling Mr. Fourth Korver for his late-game heroics — but they fell flat over the final 12 minutes in Indy.
The Cavs did their job defensively in the last frame, holding the Pacers to 17 points on 5-for-23 shooting, but they were an equally anemic 6-for-19 from the field and scored just 16 points, not regaining the lead despite cutting it to a one-possession margin several times.
Korver was completely off in the fourth, going 0-for-4 from the field (0-for-3 on 3-pointers) and coming up empty in what had been his time to shine.
“Sometimes you just miss,” he said. “The fourth quarter has been our strongest quarter the last little while, that’s when we’ve been really good. Tonight for some reason, we couldn’t get shots to fall.”
Was he surprised to go blank after being so locked in late in games during the streak?
“I don’t know if ‘surprised’ is the right word,” Korver said. “Disappointed for sure, you know. But tomorrow is another game.”
Cleveland scored just 39 points total in the second half, accounting for its lowest-scoring half of the season.
“We missed shots,” James said. “Kyle Korver missed three open 3s. Has he done that since the streak started? Nope. JR [Smith] missed two open 3s. I missed some shots. We executed the offense, especially to start that fourth. We did have two 24-second shot clock violations that we didn’t like, but our guys who we got the ball to in the fourth quarter got some really good looks. Just didn’t make them go down.”
The Cavs sounded resolute in their goal of using the Sixers game to prove they are truly a different team from the one they were at the beginning of the season, despite what happened in Indiana.
“I just thought starting off slow the way we did, 5-7, to jump ourselves up in the standings, and now getting a loss, [the best thing is] getting right back to it,” Dwyane Wade said. “We have a game tomorrow, and whenever you have a streak like that, you say, ‘Alright that was good, let’s get another one.’ So your focus is to be a good team. You don’t want to go back to playing .500 basketball. You go back to you win some in a row, and if you take a loss you continue to do that. So we got to jump right back on it.”
The next challenge for the Cavs, outside of their opponents, will be hoping they don’t suffer subtraction by addition and lose their rhythm as Isaiah Thomas, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Derrick Rose get healthy.
“I think we all know what we can be as a team,” Korver said. “We know we’re going to keep evolving as a team as players start coming back in and play. So I don’t know if we learned anything, but I think we had a lot of fun playing basketball, and it’s good to know that we can do that with this team and this group, and as long as we stay healthy, there’s a lot of good basketball ahead.”