The Pacers will try to halt an eight-game slide when they meet James and the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday.
Indiana (29-32) also has dropped five straight on the road during its current skid since a 136-129 double-overtime home victory against Milwaukee on Feb. 21. The team has since been outscored by an average of 16.0 points and also hasn’t scored 100 points in a game in its slide.
“This losing string has to stop somewhere,” Indiana forward Danny Granger said. “Our intensity has escalated. We’re playing with good effort, but we need better execution.”
The Pacers haven’t lost nine straight since Jan. 26-Feb. 23, 1989, and they begin play in seventh place in the Eastern Conference - one game ahead of New York of Orlando, which are tied for eighth, and two games in front of 10th-place New Jersey.
“We were in good shape for the playoffs, but right now, it seems like we’re sliding, sliding, sliding ourselves right out of playoff position,” Pacers forward-center Ike Diogu said.
Indiana’s latest loss came Saturday with a 100-96 defeat to Philadelphia, a game in which they played without Jamaal Tinsley, Jermaine O’Neal and Marquis Daniels. Tinsley was suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the team while O’Neal and Daniels were nursing knee injuries.
“The personnel situation is tough,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “The guys we had did enough good things to have something to build on. We did a lot of good things. A couple of things hurt us, like the 17 turnovers for 26 points. I thought everybody played well but the turnover number really took the game in their favor.”
Tinsley, who averages 13.1 points, is expected to face Cleveland. O’Neal - the team leader with 19.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.9 blocks - will miss two more games, while Daniels and his 7.1 points remains out indefinitely.
The Pacers have dropped four in a row in Cleveland since a 109-104 double-overtime win on Nov. 3, 2004.
The Cavaliers (37-25), who are 23-8 at home, are looking for their third five-game winning streak of the season. James helped keep Cleveland’s current run intact with 32 points and nine assists as his team rallied from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Bucks 94-92 on Saturday.
“We didn’t play our best basketball tonight,” James said. “We know that, but we found a way to win and that’s what it’s about.”
The Cavs shot 11-of-21 from 3-point range in the win to move two games behind Eastern Conference-leading Detroit.
“We shoot the three very well as a team,” James said. “Sometimes, we can get into a flow where we take too many 3s, but tonight, we were feeling it.”
James leads the Cavs with 27.4 points, but is averaging 35.8 in the last six games. He’s averaged 28.5 points in two games against the Pacers this season.