Photo: AP/Darron Cummings
I could only imagine how ticked off Mike Brown had to be after watching the first 24 minutes of basketball tonight. His team had a five point lead heading into the break, but had given up a whopping 61 points, not defending one bit along the way. After a 17-2 Indiana run to start the half, the team seemed to get the message. The Cavaliers gave up just 17 points in the final 17:41 of the game, LeBron hit the fourth quarter takeover button, and the wine and gold notched their ninth win of the season.
Wild Thing back in action: Anderson Varejao returned after missing two straight games with a hip contusion. Varejao had an immediate impact, with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. His defensive effort was fantastic in 28 minutes tonight, and he cut to the basket at exactly the right time as always. Shaquille O'Neal missed his fourth straight game with a shoulder strain, and he'll likely be out tomorrow night as well. Delonte West was active, but he did not play. For the Pacers, Troy Murphy returned to action.
Matchup issues: With Murphy out of the starting lineup, the Pacers have been playing small, with the 6'8" Danny Granger playing power forward and the 6'6" Dahntay Jones playing the small forward spot to go with a T.J. Ford-Brandon Rush backcourt. This caused problems for the Cavaliers on defense as James guarded Granger and J.J. Hickson had to cover Dahntay Jones. Before anyone could blink, Granger had a quick dozen, most of them due to Hickson giving him a cushion to shoot from the outside.