The Indiana Pacers' normally stout defense has been subpar in the last two games.
They would seemingly have better luck against a Cleveland team playing without Kyrie Irving, but the Cavaliers are coming off one of their highest-scoring games of the season.
Trying to avoid a third straight loss, the Central Division-leading Pacers look to continue their recent dominance over the Cavaliers on Monday night in Cleveland.
A defense that ranks second in the league in points allowed at 90.0 per game has played a big role in Indiana's quest for its first division title since 2004. The Pacers are 28-6 when holding opponents to 90 or less, but 12-20 when they allow more.
One night after giving up 83 points over the final three quarters of a 99-93 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana (40-26) yielded 27 points over the final 12 minutes in Saturday's 98-91 defeat to Philadelphia. The Pacers let both opponents shoot 11 of 20 in the fourth quarter.
"We're hitting that point in the season. It's a grind," coach Frank Vogel said after his team's fourth loss in six games. "Guys have played all season a heck of a lot more minutes than they've ever played before. It seems we're a step slow in a lot of areas. We've got to grind through it. It's a concern, not alarming."
Vogel, however, might be even more concerned after seeing what the banged-up Cavaliers (22-44) did in San Antonio on Saturday.
Facing a Spurs team that allows an average of 93.7 points at home, Cleveland scored 90 through three quarters and led by one with 4:40 to play. Though his Cavaliers ended up losing 119-113, coach Byron Scott was still pleased with the showing against the Western Conference's top team.
"I think for us, we played this game really well," he said.
Cleveland wasn't nearly as efficient in the season's first two games with Indiana, averaging 85.0 points and shooting 36.6 percent in a pair of December defeats. The Cavs have been outscored by an average of 12.5 points in losing four straight to the Pacers and have one win in the last 11 meetings.
Indiana has limited Irving to an average of 13.0 points on 32.1 percent shooting in the season series, but won't have to worry about facing the All-Star point guard this time because of a sprained left shoulder. Cleveland is 5-12 without him this season but 3-3 since the All-Star break.
While the Pacers are hoping to see some improvement on the defensive end, getting more consistent offensive performances from Roy Hibbert would also help.
Hibbert had 25 points Saturday after scoring seven on 3-of-12 shooting against the Lakers.
Hibbert similarly had varying outings in this season's two games against the Cavs, finishing with four points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first meeting and 18 points while hitting 8 of 12 in the second. The Pacers are 14-4 when Hibbert, who averages 10.8 points, scores at least 13.
Fellow big man David West, averaging 17.3 points, won't play due to a sprained lower back. Tyler Hansbrough will start in place of West, who is listed as day-to-day.