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The Cleveland Cavaliers’ struggles continued Friday after losing for the eighth time in 11 games by blowing a 22-point lead against the Indiana Pacers in a 97-95 defeat.
Trailing 96-95 with two seconds remaining, LeBron James stepped out of bounds as he was trying to drive the baseline. He did have 27 points and 11 assists but also committed five of Cleveland’s 11 turnovers.
The Pacers won despite not making a field goal after Victor Oladipo’s go-ahead three with 2:10 remaining. They outscored Cleveland 85-61 after the first quarter.
James addressed the call that he was out of bounds in the final seconds:
LeBron James @KingJames
Definitely stepped out by a tiny bit after seeing it over again! Great call. Needed to be in OKC on that drive. Lol. Live and you Learn
The play was similar to one involving Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks appearing to step out of bounds that the referees didn’t call. Antetokounmpo would hit the game-winning dunk in the final seconds.
Bleacher Report NBA @BR_NBA
LeBron wants those Giannis calls 😂 https://t.co/pwCL6znr0o
Aside from that play at the end, the bigger concern for the Cavaliers is figuring out a way to stop their current skid. Friday marked their third straight loss after being defeated 127-99 against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday and 133-99 against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.
Friday’s game against the Pacers started out looking like a blowout for the Cavs, who set the pace in the first quarter with a 22-0 run, via SportsCenter:
This was the first FG in a 22-0 run for the Cavs. 😳 https://t.co/FBSdtLSLYc
Trying to pinpoint an issue, James noted after this loss that the Cavaliers don’t have enough energy in the fourth quarter.
“We come out with low energy in the fourth quarter,” he said, via the Associated Press. “We had a lot of energy in the first half. In the third quarter, we didn’t exert as much as we did in the first half and we let them get back into the game.”
Depth is a problem for Cleveland right now. Kevin Love was the only other starter to score in double figures. Isaiah Thomas, who sat out the second night of a back-to-back to protect his hip, has struggled in four games with 12.3 points per game and a 35.3 field-goal percentage.
Consistency is another area the Cavs need to address. They began the year with a 5-7 record, followed that with 13 straight wins and have lost nine of their past 17 games to sit at 26-16 after their loss to the Pacers.
Cleveland still leads the Central Division by three games but has now fallen seven games behind the Boston Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference and four games behind the second-place Raptors.