Starters Sharp Again in Late Loss to Indy

The Cavaliers are 0-2 through the first week of the preseason – and the team is right where they want to be.

It’s not that the Wine & Gold don’t want to win. They do. But after watching Cleveland’s starters carve up the rebuilding Pacers with surgical precision – still without the services of LeBron James – it’s apparent that Tyronn Lue’s squad is going to start making up for it in a couple weeks.

The Cavs led by as many as 20 points in the first quarter and were up 11 at intermission. But Cleveland cleared the bench in the second stanza and Indy was able to pull away for the 106-102 win on Friday night at The Q.

With their neighbors across Gateway Plaza mounting the greatest postseason comeback in Indians history – and several of the Cavaliers watching during timeouts from the bench – Coach Lue went with the same starting lineup as Wednesday: starting J.R. Smith at small forward across from Jae Crowder, with Kevin Love in the middle and the pairing of Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose in the backcourt.

That starting backcourt combined for 35 points in just over 35 minutes of action – with Wade leading the way, finishing with 20 points on 10-for-14 shooting, including an explosive baseline dunk, adding five boards and a steal.

”Guys welcomed me with open arms; we all just fit,” said Wade. “Everyone just fits – D Rose (Derrick Rose), Jae (Crowder) and everyone. We’re all, first of all, happy to be playing together. I think none of us can believe we are playing together still. But Coach (Lue) does a great job and the staff does a great job of just breaking down each individual team and units when we get comfortable running the offense together.”

Rose was just as effective during his 14 minutes of work – adding 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting, canning both three-pointers he attempted to go with three boards and three assists.

As he was in the preseason opener on Wednesday, Jae Crowder was efficient on both ends – chipping in with 17 points, going 6-of-9 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from long-range, to go with six boards and a pair of assists.

Everyone that was healthy enough to go, other than Kendrick Perkins, saw action for Cleveland on Friday night – with Jeff Green pacing the Cavalier reserves with seven points to go with five boards. In just over 12 minutes of action, Tristan Thompson led the Wine & Gold with eight boards.

The new-look Pacers – a squad barely recognizable from the team Cleveland swept out of the First Round last spring – got their best production off the bench.

T.J. Leaf, their first round selection out of UCLA, led the Pacers with 18 points, going 4-of-5 from long-distance in 22 minutes of action. Domantas Sabonis, acquired in Indy’s blockbuster deal with Oklahoma City, followed up with 17 points, going 6-of-8 from the field and adding six boards.

For the Cavaliers, Cedi Osman – who’s been nursing a sore lower back – and Iman Shumpert – who suffered a sprained left foot on Wednesday night – didn’t see action on Friday. LeBron James got another night off as a precautionary measure after rolling his ankle early in Training Camp.

The Wine & Gold hit the road for the first time in the preseason, traveling to the nation’s capital to take on the Wizards on Sunday afternoon.

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