And now, they may need to do that without their All-Star point guard.
Paul George scored 21 points, Roy Hibbert added 19 and the Indiana Pacers used a dominant fourth quarter to blow out the Cavaliers 91-76 on Tuesday.
The Pacers (25-5) have won eight in a row over Cleveland, their longest active streak against any opponent. They limited the Cavs to 3-of-16 shooting and forced seven turnovers in the final period to turn a close game into yet another victory.
Cleveland (10-21) dropped its sixth straight despite getting 14 points and 11 rebounds from Anderson Varejao.
More troublesome for the Cavs was that Irving briefly went to the locker room in the third quarter with a left knee injury. He is scheduled to have an MRI today.
Irving was helped off the floor in the third quarter after falling awkwardly on a missed layup. A team physician cleared Irving to play and he returned in the fourth.
“When I went back it still didn’t feel right,” Irving said. “I thought the worst happened. I felt something pop in my knee. I was falling down around all over the place. It was a painful experience. I was praying to God everything was OK. I just have to hope for the best. We’ll see what’s going on.”
Irving finished with 10 points, five assists and five rebounds.
“It’s probably something slight, if anything at all,” Irving said.
Irving has been injury prone during his two-plus seasons in the NBA.
The former No. 1 overall pick has missed 38 games with a variety of injuries, including a broken nose, broken jaw, broken finger, sprained knee, sprained shoulder and concussion. He played in only 11 games as a freshman at Duke because of a foot injury.
One of Irving’s goal this season was to play in all 82 regular-season games. He’s been durable this season despite sustaining a broken nose last month against Minnesota and playing with a protective mask. He also played last week after missing two days of practice with the flu.
The Cavs shot 36.2 percent from the field and committed 15 turnovers.
George Hill had 13 points and six rebounds for the Pacers, who have won five in a row and sent the Cavs to their eighth straight defeat in Indianapolis. Indiana outscored the Cavs 26-10 in the fourth quarter.
The Cavaliers went ahead 17-9 on Earl Clark’s midrange shot with 4:22 left in the first quarter. But the Pacers’ reserves dominated their Cleveland counterparts in a 10-3 surge that put Indiana ahead 35-34 on Danny Granger’s finger roll with 4:57 left in the half.
Granger matched a season-high with 12 points, including eight in the second quarter when the benches were matched against one another.
Hibbert’s jumper with 3:22 left in the half gave the Pacers a 39-37 edge, before the Cavaliers settled down and rallied. Dion Waiters’ driving layup with 26 seconds to play gave Cleveland a 44-41 halftime lead. There were four ties and seven lead changes before the break.
George hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 63 late in the third. Indiana made 11 of 21 shots in the period but trailed 66-65 entering the fourth. To that point there were eight ties and 15 lead changes. The tenor of the game changed drastically from there.
The Pacers put together a 15-6 run to take an 80-72 lead on Hill’s layup with just under seven minutes left in the game. Cleveland never got closer than six the rest of the way. George’s emphatic dunk put Indiana ahead 91-74 with 2:41 to play.
The Cavaliers have reportedly been in talks with the Los Angeles Lakers about a trade involving center Andrew Bynum, who was recently banned from all team activities for detrimental conduct. The severity of Irving’s injury could alter affect any plans the Cavs may have to alter their roster.
Bynum signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Cavs in July, but only $6 million is guaranteed if the Cavs release or trade him by Jan. 7.
Pacers 91, Cavaliers 76
CLEVELAND (76): Clark 2-11 2-2 7, Thompson 3-11 1-4 7, Varejao 5-13 4-6 14, Irving 3-9 4-4 10, Miles 2-5 1-1 5, Waiters 5-13 2-2 12, Zeller 3-5 1-2 7, Bennett 2-4 2-2 6, Jack 4-9 0-0 8, Sims 0-0 0-0 0, Gee 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-80 17-23 76.
INDIANA (91): George 7-19 5-6 21, West 4-11 0-0 8, Hibbert 8-13 3-4 19, G.Hill 5-9 0-0 13, Stephenson 3-7 0-0 6, Granger 3-7 6-6 12, Scola 2-6 2-2 6, Watson 0-2 0-0 0, Mahinmi 2-3 2-4 6, Butler 0-0 0-0 0, Sloan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-77 18-22 91.
Cleveland 25 19 22 10 — 76
Indiana 23 18 24 26 — 91
3-Point Goals—Cleveland 1-12 (Clark 1-5, Miles 0-1, Waiters 0-2, Irving 0-2, Jack 0-2), Indiana 5-25 (G.Hill 3-6, George 2-11, Watson 0-1, Stephenson 0-3, Granger 0-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Cleveland 57 (Thompson 13), Indiana 47 (Scola 9). Assists—Cleveland 15 (Jack 6), Indiana 22 (Stephenson 8). Total Fouls—Cleveland 22, Indiana 16. Technicals—Cleveland defensive three second. A—18,165 (18,165).