Pacers dunk sinking Cavs, 99-89By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer Friday, Dec 21, 2012
Once was more than the sinking Cavaliers could handle.
Roy Hibbert scored 18 points, Lance Stephenson added a season-high 16 and Green delivered a monster jam early in the fourth quarter that sent the Pacers to a 99-89 win over Cleveland, which lost its sixth straight game Friday night and has dropped 17 in a row to Central Division opponents.
Hibbert didn’t have to deal with injured Cavs center Anderson Varejao the NBA’s leading rebounder, who missed his second game in a row with a bruised right knee.
Varejao’s absence may have been most felt when Green, the NBA’s slam dunk champion in 2007, threw down a dunk that’s certain to make highlight reels for the next few days. Driving the left side, he soared in the lane and hammered the ball in over Cleveland’s Samardo Samuels who could do nothing to stop it.
“That was one of the best dunks I’ve ever seen,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel, “which is also what the guys in the locker room were saying.”
Green stared at Samuels and was given a technical foul, but the damage was done.
“I don’t mind a little swagger, but I don’t want to get a technical,” Vogel said. “Two games in a row, he’s given us big lifts off the bench with our scoring.”
Green didn’t want to judge his jam.
“I don’t rank my dunks,” he said. “I got the ball on the perimeter and (my) team just kind of gave me the whole side of the floor—and I got the dunk.”
David West added 15 points with 10 rebounds and Stephenson went 7 of 8 from the field and chipped in a career-high seven assists as the Pacers won for the fifth time in six games.
Kyrie Irving scored 17 points on just 5-of-16 shooting and had six turnovers for the Cavs, who are 1-11 in their last 12 games. Tristan Thompson had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Cleveland, 3-21 in its past 24.
“Unless we play as a team at both ends of the floor, we are going to continue to lose,” said Cavs coach Bryron Scott, who acknowledged being frustrated with his young squad and unsure of how to fix it. “I’m not running out of ideas, but I’m getting close.”
With Varejao on the bench in street clothes, the Pacers enjoyed a size advantage inside and they outrebounded the Cavaliers 44-35. Hibbert spent the last 5 minutes on the bench after picking up his fifth foul, but by then Indiana led by double digits and rolled to a relatively easy win.
Indiana’s Paul George scoreless at halftime, had eight points and four steals in the third quarter, when the Pacers outscored the Cavaliers 33-22 to take a 10-point lead into the fourth.
During an 18-5 run by the Pacers, George stole a lazy pass by rookie Tyler Zeller drove for a layup and was fouled. He missed his free throw, but George poked the ball away from an unsuspecting Zeller and threw down a two-handed dunk to give the Pacers a 69-55 lead.
“In the second half, that was just me being aggressive,” George said. “If I didn’t get those steals, I know Coach would’ve put them on his (mistake) tapes because that’s not the way we play defense. I saw an opportunity to be aggressive on the basketball.”
Scott decided to rest Varejao for the second straight game rather than risk losing him for several more.
The 6-foot-11 Brazilian will also probably sit out Saturday’s game in Milwaukee, giving him additional time to heal before the Cavs play again on Dec. 26. Varejao, who is averaging 14.4 rebounds and playing at an All-Star level, bruised his knee Tuesday night against Toronto.
Irving had a puzzling first half and a disappointing game. Scott agreed that his star did not seem “engaged” throughout.
Irving scored just five points on 1-of-4 shooting and had four turnovers by halftime. On one of them, he drove the lane and badly overthrew the 7-foot Zeller but then showed some outward disappointment toward his teammate, who would have needed a step ladder to catch Irving’s pass.
Other than an eight-point flurry in the third quarter, Irving never found his groove on offense and settled for jump shots instead of driving to the basket.
“I’m still trying to find that balance where I’m getting everyone involved,” Irving said. “I’m trying to get my bigs shots and my guards shots. I’m still trying to figure it out. It’s frustrating, but it’s a process.”
Notes: Not long after his big dunk, Green left with a sprained left ankle. He expects to play Saturday at New Orleans. … Indiana has won four in a row over Cleveland. … Scott is looking forward to having three practices next week. Because of Cleveland’s brutal schedule and injuries, the Cavs have been reduced to one practice the past three weeks. … Zeller made his second start for Varejao and finished with 12 points. He scored 20 on Wednesday at Boston in his first career start. … Indiana’s Tyler and Ben Hansbrough are the fourth pair of brothers in NBA history to play on the same team, joining Dick and Tom Van Arsdale, Dominque and Gerald Wilkins and Mark and Brent Price. … Tyler Hansbrough was called for a technical in the fourth when he got mixed up with Thompson. The two exchanged a shove and some words.