Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana fell 114-110 in OT to the Utah Jazz.
It's easy to diminish the importance of certain aspects when trying to make a sweeping statement about why the Indiana Pacers allowed 114 points in an overtime loss to the Utah Jazz, but everything came into play, both in and out of Indiana's control, to tack on the loss. The outraged fan wants blood for the erroneous inbounds play with two seconds left in overtime despite the official ruling suggesting the call was correct, the levelheaded fan wants to point out the Pacers shouldn't have been in the position to need the refs to make the correct call in order to decide the game.
Both sides are spot on with their analysis. Paul Millsap's inbound off the side of the backboard to himself that led to him being fouled and hitting the game winning free throws led to a frenzy of confusion among the referees and the players. The same doubtfulness of calls could be brought up for a number of other off balance whistles late in the game. But again, the Pacers shouldn't have been in the position to need the refs to make the correct call in order to decide the game.
In a game the Pacers totaled 22 turnovers on lazy, misguided passes, that led the way to 28 Utah points, the fact the game got to overtime, thanks to some late game heroics by David West, Paul George, and George Hill that erased a six point lead in the final minute, the Pacers were largely playing with house money by that point anyway. The frustration of the game mounted not only from the turnovers, but in the specialization of Indiana's new found green light defense, which allowed another opponent to shoot over 50%.
Indiana is the type of team that's going to lose a boatload of games if they can't defend at a league leading level, and their past two losses to Portland and Utah have been key illustrations of that, despite the big clutch baskets down the stretch in the fourth quarter and in overtime to put the game in the hands of the officials in the waning seconds. Every play in overtime seemed to mount its importance, from a lengthy defensive possession from the Pacers resulting in stop after stop that kept giving the ball back to Utah on out of bounds plays, to an inbounds three from George that slipped out of his fingers as he went up that gave the game a surreal feeling, complete with more failure to get stops when stops were the only thing the Pacers needed.
Immense credit goes to the Utah Jazz, who have been an exceptional home team, showing why tonight by exploiting Indiana's defense with their front line of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, effectively shut out in the loss in Indianapolis, combining for 46 tonight, getting easy baskets against Roy Hibbert all night long. While there's no defending Roy's defense against Jefferson, who got some of the easiest looks against Hibbert anyone has gotten all season, it's worth remembering that the last time the two teams met, Jefferson was held to just four points on 1-8 shooting, pointing out that this isn't a trend for Jefferson against Hibbert.
The overall defense, especially on the road, might be. Indiana allowed 60 points in the paint, and the ease of which Utah was able to get good looks really hurt Indiana's comeback effort in the fourth quarter and in overtime, just further showcasing the importance Indiana's defense has played in getting them to the position they are in in the standings, despite a blown opportunity tonight to gain ground with New York, Chicago, and Brooklyn all losing.
The bench had better control of the ball tonight, with Tyler Hansbrough and Ian Mahinmi scoring eight, D.J. Augustin leading the way with 11 to all chalk up solid games, but couldn't contend with Gordon Hayward off the bench with 15. The Pacers had three 20-point scorers, David West with 24, Paul George with 23, and George Hill with 20, but even that wasn't enough with the defense being played. The three reached their totals thanks to big buckets down the stretch of the last two periods, bringing the Pacers back from the brink time and time again. The Pacers won the rebounding battle 41-28, a far closer number when the Jazz began to pull down key boards in the fourth and OT.
Of course, the major issue in all of this is that the Pacers took on their second straight loss for the first time since December 9th. The bad news in that is they fall to 1-2 in their West coast trip with a final game against the Denver Nuggets on Monday. The Nuggets are one of the biggest mismatches for Indiana on the road, and the team will be scrambling to catch up and split their road trip and not take an unwelcome losing streak into February.