It'd be easy to say this was the worst performance of the season for the Indiana Pacers, but they did just gag away a win against Orlando on Sunday, so it can be up for debate whether blowing a 17-point lead to one of the league's cellar dwellers is worse than shooting 32% and coming up with a season low 73 points against the Dallas Mavericks. Either way, they share the esteemed distinction of being the most frustrating losses of the season, and the best consolation for them is that at least the All-Star Break has officially begun for the Pacers, which can hopefully clear their heads and get them back on track for a key 30-game run.
This one had ominous signs of awfulness from the tip with the Pacers needing back-to-back threes from George Hill and Danny Granger to draw the game to a 19-19 tie at the end of the first quarter. The Indiana offense was out of sorts all night as their shooting percentage dipped into the low 20's in the second quarter. Things brightened up a little for the Indiana offense, but despite Indiana's solid defense all night, the Mavericks possessed the innate ability to respond to almost every Pacers basket, keeping Indiana behind until halfway through the third quarter when Indiana finally went up 53-52.
Indiana maintained a slight lead at 62-60 heading into the fourth quarter, but an already two minute scoring drought extended an extra five and a half minutes before Indiana would put any points on the board in the final period. Remarkably, Indiana allowed just six points in that stretch, but after tying the game at 66-66, Dallas ran off an 8-0 run that would put the game all but out of reach in such a low scoring affair.
The Pacers managed to cut the lead to three at 76-73 with 35 seconds remaining, but an unnecessary Lance Stephenson foul sent Dallas to the free throw line where they would proceed to ice the game. As a final tally, the Mavericks outscored Indiana 21-11 in the fourth quarter, with Dallas outscoring Indiana 13-0 from the free throw line, with Indiana getting to the line zero times in the quarter.
That's not to suggest some kind of grand officiating scheme, but free throws ended up being the difference in game where offense was in precious commodities, especially considering the Mavericks could only muster up eight fourth quarter points away from the line. The Pacers did themselves no favors in terms of some of the easy looks they missed either. Indiana had some costly layup misses on fast break opportunities when they seemed to be fishing for fouls rather than playing through the fast break defense.
With a trio of first half technical fouls and a swelling of chippy play heading into the break, the Pacers never appeared to adjust to the officiating and their inability to get to the line in the fourth quarter turned the game against Indiana's favor. The Pacers not only shot poorly, a season worst 32.1%, but they committed 20 turnovers, including four shot clock violations, that led to 20 Dallas points. To make matters more fun, they were blocked 10 times on the night.
Indiana's defense did play well tonight, holding the Mavericks to 35.7% and just 81 points, both numbers that have equated to wins for the Pacers throughout this entire season, but no amount of defense was going to guide their offense into the win column tonight. The Pacers had five double digit scorers, but were led by 14 points by George Hill. Hill played well in stretches, but saying anyone played well isn't really accurate. No one shot over 50%.
Danny Granger did have a good first half shooting the ball, hitting 3-3 from three point range. He finished up with 11 points off the bench. Granger dragged up a woeful bench shooting night, where Luis Scola, Ian Mahinmi, and C.J. Watson combined for 1-13 from the floor. David West had a big stretch in the third quarter, but wasn't able to sustain it, scoring 12 points, with five rebounds and six assists.
Lance Stephenson had a 13 point, 10 rebound double double, but went just 6-16, positively mild compared to Indiana's two All-Star representatives, who shot 6-23, with Roy Hibbert scoring just four points on 2-6 from the floor. Paul George had another poor shooting night, wrapping up 4-17, though highlighted somewhat by a number of late shot attempts in the hope of pulling of some kind of miracle comeback, only to come up in the loss column 81-73.
The loss, dropping Indiana to 40-12, was just Indiana's third home loss and their first of the year when allowing under 90 points. Whether there was some form of fatigue heading into the All-Star Break, the Pacers sure enter an exciting All-Star Weekend on a huge bummer. It would've been nice to take a win into the festivities, but the best thing to come from this game might be that it simply was that pre-All-Star Break let down.
Up next will be All-Star Weekend, featuring Nate McMillain as the head coach for Team Hill in the Rising Star Challenge on Friday. Paul George will head up the Eastern Conference and Slam Dunk competitor as the captain at All-Star Saturday Night before the All-Star Game tips off for George, Roy Hibbert, Frank Vogel, and the coaching staff Sunday evening. The Pacers as a team will hit the floor again next Tuesday, when they face the Atlanta Hawks at home.