INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Malcolm Brogdon is putting up some big numbers for the Indiana Pacers.
The newcomer filled the box score again Friday night with 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists to push the injury-riddled Pacers to their first home win of the season, 102-95 over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I love it. This is a basketball city, a basketball state,” Brogdon said. “People show me a lot of love. I’m going to enjoy playing here.”
Especially as victories come. With their defense tightening and the bench finally finding its stride Friday, the Pacers have won two straight games after starting 0-3.
In avenging a 110-99 loss in Cleveland last weekend, Indiana held the Cavaliers to 37% shooting and forced 16 turnovers in an uncharacteristically low-scoring game.
Jeremy Lamb totaled 21 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana, and Domantas Sabonis added 18 points and 17 rebounds, but it was the second unit that broke open a close game in the fourth quarter.
Reserves accounted for 10 points in a 12-3 run that provided the Pacers an 82-71 advantage, the largest for either side all night. T.J. McConnell, who finished with five points and six assists, faked Collin Sexton into a foul in the lane and completed a three-point play. Rookie center Goga Bitazde, who finished with 10 points and nine boards and blocked four shots, drained his first 3-pointer during the sequence.
“They told me I’ve got to be ready any time,” Bitazde said. “We’re all for each other. We have good chemistry. We’ve just got to try to keep doing this.”
Indiana outscored the Cavaliers by 15 points in the 25 minutes the 6-foot-11 first-round pick roamed the floor. Bitazde seized his opportunity as Indiana played without the injured All-Star guard Victor Oladipo and starting center Myles Turner.
“Goga made huge plays,” Lamb said.
Brogdon drained four clutch free throws in the final minute to keep the Cavaliers at bay. Jordan Clarkson, who finished with 20 points and five assists, missed a 3 from the left side that would have brought Cleveland within three points in the final minute.
Brogdon was acquired in a July sign-and-trade deal with Milwaukee, where he played shooting guard and averaged 15.6 points and 4.5 rebounds.
With his new team, at a new position, the fourth-year professional has upped his scoring to 22.6 points per game along with 10.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds.
Sexton had 21 points for the Cavs, who led 26-19 after the first quarter but fell into a 42-37 hole at halftime. Indiana, which shot 41% for the game and missed 22 of 27 3-point tries, was ahead 68-61 entering the final period.
“I thought our bench did a good job in that first half as well as the second lifting us and getting us going.” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “You might have nights like that where your shot’s not falling, and you’re going to need your bench to help you.”
Cavaliers: Kevin Love had 22 points and 17 boards. … The team announced that general manager Koby Altman signed a “long-term” contract extension. Coach John Beilein reacted by expressing his hope for “a really strong partnership, that we’ve got each other’s backs all the time.”
Pacers: TJ Leaf started at power forward with Sabonis moving to center in place of Turner, who suffered a sprained right ankle Wednesday in a 118-108 win at Brooklyn. Leaf played eight minutes and did not score. … Indiana outscored Cleveland in the paint 56-38.
During shootaround, Beilein’s mind wandered back to his days in college basketball when he coached Michigan in Big Ten tournament games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“It seemed like whenever we came into this building we were on the bubble,” he said. “We had to go in here and win one, two or three games to get in the NCAA tournament, so I’ve got fond memories. I love this town. Just the way it’s laid out for fans and basketball, I love coming to Indy.”
Cavaliers: Host Dallas on Sunday night.
Pacers: Host Chicago on Sunday.