Free throw attempts from the April 9, 2013 Cavaliers/Pacers game in Indiana:

IND – 46 / CLE- 15

The league owes the Cavaliers, the players, the fans and Cleveland a game.  There was no winning this one.  The Indiana Pacers took 46 free throws last night.  This was more free throws than were taken by both teams in any other game that was played last night.  It is almost impossible to imagine how a team with a 31 free throw disparity, many of which were taken during the dismantling of a 20 point fourth quarter lead.   For your consideration, here’s a list of the other games that were played last night and the number of free throws taken:

OKC -18 / UTA- 14

MIL-14 / MIA-10

WAS-30 / NYK- 14

PHL-20 / BKL-23

PHX-19 / HOU-24

CHA-18 / MEM-20

TOR-24 / CHI-20

NOH-18 / LAL-22

MIN-20 / GSW-22

After a three minute stretch of play that saw a 20 point Cavaliers lead cut to 9 points, Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott reinserted Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson with approximately 6 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter and that 9 point lead.  Should Byron Scott have reinserted his starters sooner?  Is his dogmatic approach to fourth quarter lineup changes the problem that has keyed the four 20 point comebacks that have sunk the Cavaliers this season?  Could he have called time outs sooner in the run to drag out what was happening?  Was the failure of the offensive system to blame for the loss or was a failure of effort to slow or stop the Pacers transition offense?  It didn’t matter.  The game was taken from Byron Scott and from the team.

On the series of plays which followed this lineup change, Tristan Thompson was repeatedly manhandled in the post and in the paint without referee attention.  At the same time, the Pacers continued their parade to the free throw line, cutting the lead by driving to the rim and drawing a series of phantom fouls, the most pronounced of which was a call against Cavalier Shaun Livingston involving Pacer George Hill, wherein Livingston was called for a foul on a Hill layup without ever touching either Hill or the ball.  Hill, and former Mr. Basketball Indiana Tyler Zeller, who had a magnificent game, were both fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter.

Then, with the game in the balance and 29 seconds remaining, Kyrie Irving took the ball with the Cavaliers down by 2 points.  He drove to the hoop and was met with 16 seconds left in the game by Pacer Jeff Pendergraph, who was still moving into position such that the heel of his right foot, while moving, was clearly above the restricted area arc.  Irving drew contact, drew a shooting foul, then banked a shot which should put Irving on the line with the game tied.  The officiating crew, who actually appeared to take the time to conduct a video replay of the play, somehow concluded that Irving had committed a charge, awarding the ball and essentially, the game, to the Indiana Pacers.

Any honest description of the Cavaliers Pacers game of April 9, 2013 must begin by explaining that the officiating of the game throughout the contest and specifically in the final stretch was terrible.    It spoiled a solid honest effort by the Cavaliers on the road against a good playoff team.  It influenced everything that occurred during the last 9 minutes of the game, when the Pacers made the run that would win the game.

Because until that stretch happened, the Cavaliers were rolling with effort, power, dominance and confidence.  This was a different team than the lethargic one that was crushed by the Brooklyn Nets at home just a week before.  A 20 point lead and lockdown defense against a legitimate playoff contender type team.  All of which was compounded by the return of Kyrie Irving’s shooting stroke.  In an honest moment, this was what all cylinders could look like.   But honest moments will remain on hold until tonight against the Pistons and back in Cleveland.