Pacers look to bolster play-in credentials vs. Cavaliers

NBA Basketball

The Indiana Pacers will try to move closer to clinching a berth in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament when they travel to Cleveland on Monday night to take on the Cavaliers.

The Pacers (31-36), who hold the 10th and final spot in the play-in round with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Chicago Bulls, are still trying to figure out how to beat their potential opponent in an elimination game between them and the currently ninth-place Washington Wizards.

Indiana dropped all three games to Washington this season with the past two coming within a span of five days. The Pacers’ 133-132 overtime loss to the Wizards on Saturday night dropped them a half-game behind Washington, which would have home-court advantage if the teams met in the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup.

The Pacers were better on defense than the previous meeting last Monday when they gave up 154 points — a franchise record for a non-overtime game.

But Indiana still couldn’t slow down the formidable scoring punch of Bradley Beal (50 points) and Russell Westbrook (33 points, 19 rebounds, 15 assists) on a historic night in which he tied Oscar Robertson for the most career triple-doubles in NBA history.

Indiana outscored Washington 72-66 in the paint this time and was better in its transition defense, as well, allowing 24 points on that front.

The Pacers once again had no trouble on the offensive end as Domantas Sabonis had a triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists while Caris LeVert had 35 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.

“I thought our guys played their (butts) off,” Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “We fought. We deserved that one. There were a lot of breaks in there that didn’t go our way. A lot of them.”

The Cavaliers (21-47) have the NBA’s longest active losing streak after dropping their 10th in a row at home Sunday, 124-97, against the Dallas Mavericks. It was their second loss in three games against Dallas.

Collin Sexton led Cleveland again with 24 points, and took a hit from Luka Doncic under the basket that resulted in the Mavericks’ star drawing a flagrant-two foul and an automatic ejection.

“It was just a basketball play at the end of the day,” Sexton said. “Whenever somebody hand-checks, you usually punch down (like Doncic did), so it was all good. It was just a box-out play.”

Kevin Love had eight points and 11 rebounds, and Mfiondu Kabengele added 14 points, but the Cavaliers could draw no closer than nine points in the second half.

“They saw their best player go out of the game and rallied around him,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “That’s what winning basketball teams do when they’re down.”

In addition to T.J. Warren (left foot stress fracture) and Myles Turner (right toe), JaKarr Sampson (concussion) is also expected to miss his sixth consecutive game. Malcolm Brogdon (sore right hamstring) and Jeremy Lamb (sore left knee) are listed as questionable.

Cleveland guard Darius Garland (left ankle sprain) worked out before the game, but did not play. The Cavaliers were also without Cedi Osman (right ankle soreness), Isaiah Hartenstein (possible concussion), Matthew Dellavedova (neck strain), Lamar Stevens (concussion), Dylan Windler (left knee surgery), Taurean Prince (left ankle surgery) and Larry Nance Jr. (right thumb fracture).

–Field Level Media

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