Cleveland Cavaliers head coach JB Bickerstaff said the team’s deviation from the “Cavaliers basketball” he had preached upon earlier this season played a detrimental role in a 135-126 victory by the Indiana Pacers in Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Thursday.

“They’re a pesky team,” he said. “They’re a well coached team. But, again, we know how we have to play to win. For whatever reason, we decided we wanted to play Pacers basketball.

“We gave them a chance to win. You don’t win playing other people’s style, we win playing Cleveland Cavaliers basketball. We have a decision to make with how often we’re going to continue playing it.”

Cleveland’s lackluster perimeter defense allowed the Cavs’ last three opponents to make 56 of their last 98 shots from the 3-point line, including 12 of the Pacers’ 28 shots, a point JB Bickerstaff made sure to hammer home to a Cavs basketball team that ranks 24th in the league after allowing its opponents to shoot 36.6% from long range, according to the NBA.

“We kept giving up threes.” Bickerstaff said. “The 3-ball is the way back into the game.

“It’s personnel-driven, understanding the person you’re guarding and being on high alert. That’s what they’re looking for. I just didn’t think we had the focus on the defensive end of the floor because we were scoring points. But we have to be able to do both.”

Though they were able to score their fair share of points against the Pacers, JB Bickerstaff again reminded the Cavs of the team’s defense-first basketball mentality and their ability to keep their opponent’s scoring to a minimum with the NBA’s top-rated defense.

“We are a defensive-first team,” he said. “That’s the way we give ourselves a chance to be successful. If we don’t defend, we’re not going to win any games. We need to go out and be better there.”