The Cavaliers (42-28) closed out a 1-2 homestand with a 105-93 defeat to Denver on Sunday, and have lost three of four after winning a season-high eight in a row from March 3-17.
That win streak moved Cleveland closer to Detroit for the lead in the Eastern Conference and Central Division, but to continue challenging the Pistons, the Cavs will need to perform well on the road as they play eight of their final 12 contests away from home.
Cleveland is 15-18 on the road, but has won three of its last four there. The Cavs, though, have lost eight of their last nine visits to Conseco Fieldhouse.
Despite dropping three of four and 14 of 16, Indiana (31-38) remains in the hunt with New Jersey, Orlando and New York for the final two playoff spots in the East. The Cavaliers have won two of three against the Pacers this season, including a 99-88 victory on March 11 in the most recent contest.
“We’ve got to beat Indiana and that’s all I’m worried about,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “We’re going to have our hands full going in their building. If we don’t come and fight and execute especially down the stretch in a hostile environment, it’s going to be a tough go for us.”
After Indiana, the Cavaliers visit the Knicks on Wednesday before a key matchup with division-rival Chicago on Saturday. They then close the trip with games against Boston and Minnesota.
On Sunday, the Nuggets shot a season-best 59.7 percent from the field and outscored the Cavaliers 8-0 over the final 3:02.
“This was definitely not one of our best defensive efforts,” said Cleveland’s LeBron James said. “And we paid for it.”
James, who averages 27.3 points, scored 18 against Denver and was held below 20 for the first time since Feb. 11. He is averaging almost 28 points in three games against Indiana this season.
Though Cleveland holds its opponents to 93.1 points per game, it allowed more than 100 for the second time in four contests Sunday, one game after smothering New York in a 90-68 win Friday.
The Cavaliers have also scored less than their 96.4 season average in each of their last three games, but James remains confident.
“Realistically, we do want to win all five (games on the trip). That’s our goal,” he said. “We’re not going on the road saying let’s win this minimum games or this maximum games. We have to go out and play as hard as we can and get back to that basketball that we were playing before losing three out of four.”
Indiana got a season-high 39 points on 15-for-24 shooting and 14 rebounds from Jermaine O’Neal on Sunday, but lost 92-90 at home to the Bulls when Ben Gordon hit the game-winner with 2.8 seconds left.
O’Neal bounced back after scoring a combined 25 points in his previous two games, but was one of only two Pacers in double figures. Mike Dunleavy added 23 points for his second straight game of 20 or more.
“We needed a couple more guys to step up offensively,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle. “We put too much on Jermaine’s shoulders. Striking a balance is going to be a major factor for this team.”
O’Neal had 29 points in Indiana’s 97-87 win over Cleveland on Nov. 24, but did not play in the last two meetings because of injuries.