CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t just stand up to the powerful Indiana Pacers, they pounded them Sunday.
Pulling within 2 1/2 games of the idle Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Cleveland posted a 90-76 win Sunday before 17,147 at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavaliers (30-45) have just seven games remaining. They felt they had to stand up to the mighty Pacers.
“We threw the first punch,” Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters said. “We didn’t back down. We kept coming at them the whole night and we got a huge win.”
Waiters led all players with 19 points, scoring nine in the fourth quarter. Cavaliers forward Luol Deng scored 15 points, and power forward Tristan Thompson added 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Pacers All-Star forward Paul George contributed in 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and five steals. Power forward David West added 14 points for Indiana, which lost for the fifth time in seven games.
The skid leaves Indiana (52-22) tied in the loss column with the Miami Heat (50-22) in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“I think we’re playing against ourselves right now,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “There’s a level of play that we’re trying to reach, and we’re not close to where we need to be.”
The Cavaliers might have suffered a devastating blow in the second quarter when valuable reserve forward/center Anderson Varejao was knocked out of the game with a strained right shoulder. He will be evaluated Monday.
Cleveland wasn’t bothered by his absence Sunday. The Cavaliers held the Pacers to 37.2 percent shooting and outrebounded Indiana 45-41.
“We just have to play together,” Pacers guard Lance Stephenson said. “We’re having a tough stretch. We have to play together and trust our teammates.”
The Cavaliers lost the previous four times they played the Pacers, including all three meetings this season. Cleveland did not score more than 78 points in any of those games, but the offense improved Sunday and led the Cavaliers to their fourth victory in five games overall.
“Any time there’s a prize at the end of the tunnel, it makes it easier to believe that you have a chance,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.
The game featured an altercation with 6:52 left. After Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova fouled West, the Pacers forward swung his elbow and hit Dellavedova in the mouth, which drew a flagrant-1 foul.
Cavaliers center Spencer Hawes stood up to West, and the players were issued double technicals. For Hawes, it was his 12th technical foul of the season, which will cost him $4,000.
“I don’t look at them as a dirty team,” Brown said of the Pacers. “They are a physical team that knows how to win. West does some little things that get under your skin. He’s a tough, crusty son of a gun. The stuff he does, anyone can use that.”
Dellavedova said he appreciated the 7-foot-1 Hawes standing up for him.
“I didn’t think it was that much,” he said. “Spence just came over to see if I was OK. I appreciate it, even though it might cost him some money.”
The Cavaliers had six players score in double figures, including all five starters. Hawes scored 13, and Dellavedova and guard Jarrett Jack had 11 apiece.
NOTES: Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving’s strained left biceps was examined by doctors Sunday. Irving missed his eighth games. A Cavaliers spokesman said more tests would be done, perhaps Monday, as no conclusions were drawn Sunday. … Ex-Cavaliers C Andrew Bynum didn’t make the trip to Cleveland. He played just two games since signing with the Pacers on Feb. 1, then was shut down, perhaps for the rest of the regular season, with a sore right knee. When asked when Bynum might return, Pacers coach Frank Vogel replied, “As soon as possible. I don’t know when that is. We do hope he’s going to be back.” … Vogel said Pacers G C.J. Watson (strained right hamstring) is about a week away from getting back in the lineup. … Cavaliers G Seth Curry’s 10-day contract expired after Sunday’s game. Curry did not play against the Pacers.
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