Is it time to panic yet? The Indiana Pacers were buried in the third quarter beneath a 33-6 Houston Rockets run as the game went from a manageable 50-47 deficit into a 83-53 blowout. Things certainly didn't improve for the Pacers, who fell behind by as many as 32 in the fourth quarter, with the Rockets just pummeling the Pacers in the second half, wrapping up a hearty 112-86 victory.
Indiana had played from behind most of the night, but did show some real patience and strength in the opening minutes of the game. Those six minutes were short lived with the Rockets turning things up offensively and with an endless stream of frustrating calls going against the Pacers in the second quarter, the Rockets jumped ahead 50-38. The Pacers closed the half incredibly strong, forcing two consecutive shot clock violations and scoring five points to end the half.
With their run extending to 9-0 and the Houston lead trimmed to three, the Pacers appeared well in the game. Then Terrence Jones hit a three. Then Dwight Howard completed a three point play. Then James Harden went to the line for a three point play. When it was all said and done, Houston had completed a 9-0 run of their own, pushing the lead to double figures, and beginning the offensive avalanche that would bury the Pacers and leave them for dead.
The Rockets sunk in 13 three pointers on the night, while also dominating the paint with 48 points inside. After a 50% first half, nothing was looking pretty for Indiana, who finished shooting 45.9%, but allowing 52.6% to the Rockets, who also shot 10 more free throws than the Pacers. The second half performance by both teams completely overshadowed what was a talking point of the first half with frustrating officiating leaving the Pacers at the mercy of the whistles. The officials directly had a hand in six of Indiana's nine first half turnovers, but that didn't much matter in the end with Indiana throwing bad pass after bad pass in the second half to balloon their total to 19 on the night, allowing 17 Houston points as the Rockets opened up big time in transition in the second half, outscoring Indiana 21-11.
The Pacers really did have some positives going, which makes tonight's blowout loss far more frustrating than their loss against Charlotte on Wednesday. Sure the Rockets were hot in the third, but that's no excuse. Indiana was poor with the ball, awful on offense, and had no answer on the other end for what Houston was throwing at them. Jeff Van Gundy suggested before the game that there be no panic in Pacerland, and in a sense that can even be applied towards tonight's game.
Despite trailing, there was little room for panic in how they played through the first 26 minutes of the game. Even Houston pouring it on as they did is something that happens occasionally, and even in some ways, this was just dues for the Pacers, who in their previous bout with the Rockets, plastered Houston to the tune of 114-81. But given Indiana's downward trend in recent weeks, tonight's loss had all the frustration of a blowout loss without any of the consolation of it being a one off performance. So again, is it time to panic yet?
Individually, there was very little to take from tonight's game as far as the Pacers go. Roy Hibbert hit his first four shots, all in the first half, finishing with nine. Paul George had some impressive defensive stands to close the half and appeared prime for a breakout after scoring the second half's first four points, but finished with just 13 on the night. David West had 15 to lead the Pacers, Rasual Butler was okay with eight points, and Luis Scola was just the third Pacer in double figures with 10.
Up next for the Pacers is a Sunday evening game against the Dallas Mavericks. Indiana will bring in their first three game losing streak of the season, with a very realistic chance to see it climb to four despite seeing the Mavericks nearly blow a 30 point lead away in a win against Portland. The loss ties Indiana in the loss column with Miami once again, but at this point, any concerns about the standings are second to where the team needs to be and needs to find themselves hopefully beginning on Sunday.