The Indiana Pacers are a tough team. They showed as much last season in the first round of the playoffs. Physicality is the name of their game, and they’ve shown it off this year as the stingiest defense to score on in the League allowing just 101.2 points per game. To accomplish this, they feature a strong mix of individual and team defenders. They average more than nine steals per game, with five players each having at least one per game. They also block over five shots per game, with more than half coming from C Myles Turner who leads the NBA with 2.72 per contest. Despite missing their All Star guard, Victor Oladipo, for an 11 game stretch, defense has driven the Pacers on their current League high seven game win streak.
So, how do the Cavaliers compete with the physicality of this Indy team? Well, re-inserting David Nwaba and his tough nosed defense into the starting lineup is a start. The last time Coach Larry Drew did that (correction, was able to do that), it produced arguably the best three game stretch of this season. With Nwaba plugged in as the designated defensive stopper, the Cavs nearly beat the Lakers before upsetting the Sixers and Rockets on back-to-back nights. Unfortunately, a sore knee kept him out of the next nine games, depriving the Cavs of his toughness and defensive ability. Nwaba returned in last week’s win over the Knicks, but has been on a minutes restriction ever since. That could be changing with Drew reportedly leaning towards starting him tonight… which is probably a good idea against a now healthy and resurgent Oladipo.
Though it may be a challenge to play physical with Tristan Thompson still out for a few more weeks, the Cavs could take a page out of Indiana’s playbook by toughening up their level of defensive play. Having the newly re-acquired Matthew Dellavedova should help, as should the athleticism of Alec Burks and Jaron Blossomgame. Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman are also capable of being tougher defenders (when they’re not worried about their offensive games as much). Let’s hope the Cavs can toughen up and start tightening the screws on their opponents.
Prediction: This is the part where I poke the bear and predict a tough and convincing Pacers win over the undermanned Cavs… say something to the tune of 108-94. But, let’s not forget what day it is… (victory Tuesday for those of you who forgot).
Catch all of the physical action starting at 7pm EST on FSO. And, of course, make your feelings known in the space below…