A pair of struggling Central Division clubs will renew their rivalry tonight in Indianapolis when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit Conseco Fieldhouse to take on the Indiana Pacers.
Both teams are coming in on down notes. The Pacers dropped their third straight game in the opener of a brief, two-game homestand on Wednesday when Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 31 points and Pau Gasol added 28 and eight rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers topped Indiana 109-94.
Darren Collison scored 17 and Brandon Rush added 16 for the Pacers, who have lost four of five overall. Roy Hibbert added 12 points and Mike Dunleavy scored 11 in a reserve role for Indiana.
"[The Lakers] were clearly a superior group to our players tonight," Pacers head coach Jim O'Brien said. "They jumped on us and never really gave us a chance to get back in the game. They were obviously going to bring it and we didn't match their intensity in the first half."
The Cavs, meanwhile, have hit the skids and hit them hard, falling to 0-3 on a four-game road trip and losing their ninth straight overall on Wednesday in South Beach when Dwyane Wade got hot in the fourth quarter and finished with 28 points to lead the Miami Heat to their 10th consecutive win, a 101-95 victory over Cleveland.
Former Cavs superstar LeBron James added 21 points and 13 rebounds in his second meeting against his previous club, while Chris Bosh provided 16 points.
"I knew I didn't have it going as far as shooting, so I just tried to concentrate on rebounding the basketball and do other things to help us win," said James, who shot 5-for-15. "That's the luxury of being on this team."
Back on December 2, in the teams' first meeting of the season and James' first game back in Cleveland, Miami took a 118-90 victory. Since that game, the Heat have earned seven consecutive victories, ascended to the top of the Southeast Division and are now on their first 10-game winning streak since 2005-06 -- the season they won the NBA title.
Cleveland, meanwhile, is heading in the opposite direction, having fallen off the table, enduring its largest losing streak since a 15-game hiccup from Nov. 6-Dec. 2, 2002. Daniel Gibson led the Cavaliers with 26 points, including four treys against the Heat, while Anderson Varejao ended with 18 points and 15 boards.
Antawn Jamison provided 15 points for the Cavs, while Mo Williams had 13, but shot just 6-for-20 -- including 1-for-10 from three-point range.
Indiana has already topped the Cavs twice this season, including a 100-89 win in Indy on Nov. 23.