The Cleveland Cavaliers have to go back to the middle of November to find their previous loss to a team that’s currently below .500.
With their struggles in Cleveland over the past five years, the Indiana Pacers appear to be an unlikely candidate to end that streak.
The Cavaliers will try to move a step closer toward claiming the Central Division title Wednesday night by recording their 10th straight home win over the Pacers, who will be without leading scorer Danny Granger(notes).
Since falling at Washington on Nov. 18, Cleveland (53-15) has won 23 in a row against losing teams, but it needed LeBron James’(notes) fourth triple-double of the season to get past Detroit 113-101 on Tuesday night.
Playing his third game since returning from a sprained right ankle, James missed 10 of 15 shots over the first three quarters, but was 5 for 7 in the final period to finish with 29 points. He added 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his 28th career triple-double.
“(A triple-double) means you’re doing everything your team needs to win basketball games,” said James, who is 35 points shy of 15,000 in his career. “That is one of the best things you can have as an individual.”
Winners of 10 of their last 11 overall, the Cavaliers will have plenty of chances to extend their streak against sub-.500 teams as they face the Pacers (22-45), Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans over the next eight days.
Cleveland could use that stretch to clinch consecutive division titles for the first time in team history. Until last season, the franchise’s only previous crown was in 1975-76 - its sixth season of existence.
The Cavaliers hold a 15 1/2-game lead in the Central over Milwaukee, which has 17 games remaining, and they’re also trying to build on their six-game cushion over Orlando for first place in the Eastern Conference.
A matchup with the Pacers could help in both races. Indiana hasn’t won in Cleveland since a 109-104 double-overtime victory on Nov. 3, 2004, and it has dropped 15 of 17 overall meetings dating to Dec. 23, 2005.
The Pacers enter the game having lost 13 of 17 overall, including eight straight on the road - one shy of their longest skid away from home this season.
Indiana could have a hard time avoiding another road defeat with Granger unavailable Wednesday. After scoring a team-best 26 points, Granger left in the final minute of a 99-94 victory over visiting Charlotte after getting hit in the upper cheek.
“Danny … is being evaluated and will not play tomorrow,” coach Jim O’Brien said.
Indiana will try to overcome the absence of its top scorer (23.1 ppg) to win consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 2-5. Even with Granger in the lineup, the Cavaliers won by double digits in each of their past three matchups with the Pacers, including two this season.
James and Shaquille O’Neal(notes) led all scorers with 22 points apiece in Cleveland’s 94-73 road victory Jan. 29. James had 40 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a 105-95 win Nov. 20, also in Indiana.
The Cavaliers haven’t hosted the Pacers since a 97-73 win on Dec. 5, 2008. They’ve won six in a row at home, where they’re 29-4 this season.