Already without Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao, Cleveland lost rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters to a sore left knee after one quarter, then displayed no heart the rest of the night while falling 111-90 to the ailing and previously slumping Indiana Pacers.
“No fight, no life,” Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson said. “At home, that’s not acceptable.”
The Cavs (22-45) have now lost three straight and five of their last six as they prepare to host LeBron James and the Miami Heat on Wednesday, while the Pacers (41-26) halted a two-game losing streak.
Indiana, it should be noted, dominated all aspects of the game despite being without power forward David West (sore lower back) and small forward Danny Granger (knee).
“We played a very good team that is obviously playing for something special,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said of the Pacers, currently the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. “They came out and took it to us right from the get go.”
Tyler Hansbrough, who started in place of West, had 18 points and 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes. He dominated Thompson when both were in the game.
High-flying small forward Gerald Green had 20 points in 23 minutes off the bench, while center Roy Hibbert had 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in 28 minutes.
“We got our (butt) kicked tonight in terms of bigs,” said Thompson, who has had several skirmishes with Hansbrough but put up no fight Monday. “Tyler Hansbrough had 18 and 10 (actually 11) and he’s not that kind of player.”
Thompson led the Cavs with 20 points and 11 rebounds, but he did some serious stat-stuffing with 10 points and four rebounds while playing an entire fourth quarter of garbage time.
C.J. Miles added 21 points on his 26th birthday, but shooting guards Waiters (2-for-7), Wayne Ellington (1-9) and Daniel Gibson (1-9) combined to go 4-for-25 from the field as the Cavs shot .380 (35-for-92).
Miles had 14 points in the second quarter but also gave up that many as the Pacers took a 60-45 lead at intermission.
Green killed the Cavs, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and adding a monster slam off a lob in an 11-0 run that also featured a three-point play from Hansbrough. The entire spurt, which featured no defense by the Cavs, took exactly 1:43.
Adding injury to insult, Waiters’ already sore knee got worse early in the game and he didn’t play after the first quarter. The Cavs will run more tests today.
“It’s just some soreness and pain,” Waiters said. “I don’t think it’s anything serious.
“We’re going to take it day by day and find out,” the 21-year-old added. “We’ll get some tests (today) and see what’s wrong.”
If only an X-ray or MRI could diagnose — and somehow correct — all that was wrong with the Cavs, who got outscored 42-26 in the paint and were outrebounded 57-45. In their three wins over Cleveland this season, the Pacers are plus-56 in points in the paint.
“It’s playoff-type basketball,” Scott said. “It’s something our guys have to figure out and get used to.”
One of the few signs of life shown by the Cavs — maybe the only sign — wasn’t even a good one.
Marreese Speights, who continues to show why he might not be worth paying $5 million a year for multiple years, was ejected after being called for a flagrant foul, penalty two with 48.4 seconds left in the third quarter.
Following a Cleveland turnover, Indiana’s Paul George sprinted down the floor, took a bounce pass from D.J. Augustin and was about to go in for a layup.
Speights hustled to get back, but made no play on the ball while horse-collaring George and throwing him to the ground. Officials originally called a flagrant foul, penalty one, but upon video review changed to a penalty two, which calls for automatic ejection.
At the time of Speights’ latest lowlight — the five-year veteran missed the team plane to Dallas last week — the Cavs were down 82-62.
“The fouling part was correct,” Scott said. “The way he did it wasn’t the smartest thing in the world.”
The highlights of the fourth period from a Cleveland perspective were Omri Casspi’s first game action since Feb. 6 — he had two points in five minutes — and Kevin Jones’ two points in seven minutes.
Jones has spent a lot of time with Canton of the NBA Development League, and all the Charge players were at The Q for the game, no doubt thinking they should be in the league after watching the Cavs in this one.
With James and the Heat bringing their 23-game winning streak to The Q on Wednesday, things could get worse before they get better. For that matter, they could get downright ugly if Waiters has to join Irving and Varejao on the sideline.
Asked what Plan C was, Scott said, “Besides going home tonight and getting on my knees and praying?”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.