No LeBron James. Not much defensive resistance. The Indiana Pacers said, “Thank you very much.”
The Pacers downed the LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers 123-109 Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in a matchup that could be a playoff preview of the first round. King James won’t be resting then, nor will the Cavs look as uninspired to guard the Pacers, who scored a season-high 70 points in the first half, finished with 16 3-pointers and shot 56.3 percent.
Indiana (42-36) is a half game ahead of the Detroit Pistons (42-37) for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with four regular-season games remaining. The Pacers have the head-to-head tiebreaker edge on the Pistons.
Dropping to No. 8 would likely mean dealing with the top-seeded Cavs (56-23) in the postseason’s opening round next week. If the Pacers stay seventh, expect the playoff opponent to be the second-seeded Toronto Raptors.
“We’ve got to keep going,” said reserve forward Solomon Hill, who had a season-high 15 points. “We’ve got to keep churning out wins.”
Indiana avoided a four-game season series sweep against the Cavaliers, although the previous three losses were all close games. Perhaps the best news now is the Pacers are three games ahead of the Chicago Bulls (39-39), who sit ninth and are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot.
Paul George scored a game-high 29 points with four 3-pointers, but Indiana’s bench seized control of this game early. Reserve guard C.J. Miles scored 21 points in addition to Hill’s 15. The home team led by nine at the half.
A night after Cleveland hit 18 3-pointers in a win at Milwaukee, the visitors failed to defend the arc well as the Pacers hit 16-of-31 3-pointers. Miles hit six in addition to George’s four and Hill added three.
The Pacers are at Toronto Friday, return home to host Brooklyn Sunday and the New York Knicks Tuesday before finishing the regular season at Milwaukee next Wednesday.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.