As if it weren't abundantly clear, things are not going well for the Indiana Pacers, who failed to break 80 for the fourth time in five games, suffered their fifth straight loss on the road, and worst of all, appear to have no answers for their struggles, which is a major problem when considering the totality of their recent struggles. It doesn't seem to matter who they're playing, the story remains the same whey they head away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers fell behind 8-0 out of the gate against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but despite that, strong play from the starters on offense gave them enough to take an 18-16 lead at the 3:36 mark of the first quarter. Cleveland would close the rest of the quarter on a 9-2 run however to take a 25-20 lead after the first, jumping ahead by nine early in the second.
The bench would help guide the Pacers back into the game with threes from Donald Sloan and Chris Copeland helping to bring the Pacers back to within a point at 35-34 with 5:33 remaining in the half. Luol Deng would respond on the other end to kickstart a 12-0 Cavaliers run that ballooned the lead back to 13 before Indiana could score again on a David West layup.
In the run, the Pacers missed eight straight shots and committing two turnovers, going scoreless for four and a half minutes as the Cavs continued to jump ahead. Jarrett Jack would get the two points back to end the half with Cleveland taking a 49-36 advantage into the break. A 7-0 run would bring Indiana to within six to open the third quarter, but they couldn't close the gap from six, trailing 55-49 at the 7:01 mark of the third.
Indiana did a poor job taking advantage of their defensive stops and it made every Cleveland basket that much more taxing. Indiana got a pair of steps trailing six, but committed turnovers each time they went back on offense, with a lane violation on West (do any other teams get called for lane violations in the NBA?) giving Deng another crack at a missed free throw that started another long Cavs run at 9-0.
While Cleveland benefited from lengthy runs, they never truly ran the gauntlet offensively outside of isolated stretches, one of those being at the end of the third, when they came away with points on four straight possessions to once again close strong, moving them to a 73-58 lead after the third quarter. It was a common theme that the Cavs were there all game to close strong when the Pacers made their few offensive pushes.
Things dissolved a bit further for the blue and gold as they went scoreless for three and a half minutes early in the fourth after Paul George's three cut the lead to a should-be manageable 12. The Pacers missed their next five shots with a pair of turnovers in the three minutes it took Cleveland to finally break through and score points in the fourth quarter, as Dion Waiters opened the floodgates, an 11-2 run putting Cleveland up 84-63.
The Pacers would make one last push, a George and one pushing the lead to 12, but Spencer Hawes would come back with a shot on the other end to more or less kill the run at 11-2 and lead the path for Cleveland to come away with the win. The Pacers would end up falling 90-76 with their offense continuing to cause more problems than solving, an otherwise "good enough" defensive effort squandered behind long droughts, 37.2% shooting, and 16 turnovers that led to 22 Cavalier points.
To give an idea just how bad the offense has been recently, Indiana's 37.2% shooting today was the best in their last five games, four of five of them losses, and all five falling among Indiana's seven worst shooting performances of the season. No amount of defense, and there's been plenty by the Pacers, who allowed under a point per possession for the fourth straight game, and yet still couldn't play within single figures.
Despite all of this, there wasn't a real lack of effort from the Pacers today, but things have gone so far south offensively that no amount of effort on the defensive end can put Indiana into the win column the way their offense is coming up short in just about every aspect. They shot under 50% around the rim, and were just 2-20 in two point shots outside of the paint.
No one particularly played well, though Paul George made plenty of plays around the floor despite going just 5-13 shooting for 15 points. He had seven rebounds, five steals, and four assists but was just 3-9 from three point range. David West had plenty of good looks, but just couldn't get them to go down, scoring 14 on 6-16 shooting. Lance Stephenson was only the third Pacer in double figures, scoring 11 on 4-9 shooting with seven assists.
Roy Hibbert was limited with foul trouble, but despite going just 2-9 from the floor was a positive impact on the team, at least compared the rest of the team. The bench offered 21 points, but no one particularly lifted the Pacers long enough to really put them back in the game despite a strong bench stretch fueled by Donald Sloan and Luis Scola to help draw them within a point in the second.
Things don't get much easier as any hope for the Eastern Conference's top seed hinge squarely on Indiana's ability to show some fight, but it will be a tall task with the San Antonio Spurs entering Bankers Life Fieldhouse tomorrow night, putting their 17 game winning streak on the line against a team that's won 17 games since February 1st. While the Pacers have played better at home, especially against quality opponents, the offense will likely need to take leaps and bounds to keep pace with a San Antonio team that hasn't dropped under 90 points since their last loss on February 21.