CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers have lost a lot of laughers, but this one was painful.
Cleveland dropped a heartbreaking 117-112 decision to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena, its 22nd straight defeat and 32nd in its last 33 games.
This one hurt more than most others, however, because the Cavs (8-41) overcame a horrific start, made a great comeback and actually had a chance to beat the Pacers
(19-27) in front of about 8,000 onlookers.
“It hurts, period,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. “When you lose games, it hurts, especially when you give yourself an opportunity to win.”
Cleveland led 108-105 after Manny Harris hit a runner with 3:34 to go, only to get outscored 12-4 the rest of the way.
Indiana’s Danny Granger missed a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left and the Pacers clinging to a 113-112 lead, but Cleveland’s Anthony Parker missed a runner down the left side of the lane with 19 ticks on the clock.
“A.P. thought he had an opening,” said Scott, who didn’t want a timeout, but wanted to set up an offense if an early opportunity wasn’t there. “I don’t know if he was fouled or not. That’s not the play we wanted.”
Granger then made two free throws with 17.1 seconds left to put the Pacers up three. Following a timeout, the Cavs’ Ramon Sessions penetrated, but rifled a short pass to J.J. Hickson, who was unable to handle it.
“It looked like it hit him right in the chest,” Scott said. “We had a layup. We wanted to get a quick two. I thought Ramon made the right play.”
Granger, who had 11 of his 23 points in the final quarter, then made two more free throws to cap the scoring, leaving the Cavs one game shy of tying the NBA record of 23 straight losses in one season.
Next up for the Cavs is a Friday night game in Memphis, where Cleveland will also be looking to snap a 24-game road losing streak.
If the Cavs lose that one, they can tie their NBA record of 24 straight losses over two seasons — Cleveland lost its last 19 games in 1981-82 and its first five in 1982-83 — Saturday at home against Portland.
The Cavs did clear one giant hurdle against the Pacers, as they overcame a 17-point deficit in the second quarter to take an 85-84 lead on a three-point play by Sessions with 1:15 left in the third.
Almost unbelievably, it ended a streak of 17 straight quarters where the Cavs didn’t hold a single lead. The last time Cleveland had been up was late in the first quarter of a Jan. 25 game in Boston.
The Cavs also received a number of very good individual performances, though they went for naught thanks to a 49-32 deficit on the boards. The Pacers had 16 offensive rebounds, leading to a 24-12 edge in second-chance points.
“Two words — offensive rebounds,” Scott said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Sessions, who made 13-of-14 free throws, led the Cavs with 25 points and nine assists, while Antawn Jamison had 21 points and seven rebounds. Harris added 19 points and eight boards, Parker had 17 points off the bench, Christian Eyenga had 12 points, four rebounds and a career-high five assists and Hickson had 10 points but only three boards.
In addition to Granger, who averaged 27.5 points in Indiana’s four wins over the Cavs this season, the Pacers got 22 points and nine assists from Darren Collison. Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster all had at least eight rebounds.
“We did it with poise and execution,” Pacers interim coach Frank Vogel said. “That’s an area of growth for us.”
With less than 5,000 fans in attendance at tipoff, the Cavs wasted no time falling behind 12-0. Cleveland missed its first 10 shots, a number of them horribly, while Indiana got its 12 points on four layups, a dunk and two free throws. All that took exactly 3:21.
The Pacers, who made nine of their first 10 shots, led by as many as 15 in the first quarter before settling for a 35-25 lead after one.
Behind great play from Parker and Sessions, the Cavs made several runs in the second quarter, but also had a number of bad stretches in falling behind by as many as 17. Just when all appeared lost, however, Cleveland closed the half on an 18-6 run to get within 59-54 at intermission.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.