The silver lining, if there was one in the Indiana Pacers' 105-94 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, it's that they made a game of it. The Pacers fell behind by 17 points in the second quarter, but closed the first half on a 14-2 run to trail 48-45. They came out strong in the third quarter with a 9-2 run to jump ahead 55-50, but the momentum of the game shifted as Paul George picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter.
George had scored Indiana's first eight of the half, pushing them ahead, but a frustration foul late in the second quarter saddled him with his third of the half, and it absolutely came back on the team when he had to sit with four, with the Mavs running off a 23-8 run after George went to the bench to give Dallas a 73-62 lead. Dallas thrived at the free throw line and a pair of back-to-back three pointers from Devin Harris put them back up double figures.
George Hill kept the Pacers within striking distance as they closed the quarter on a 9-2 run to make it a 76-71 game. But the underlining theme through the game: turnovers, lack of bench production, a lack of extra step in hustle plays allowed the Mavericks to maintain their lead in the fourth quarter. Indiana fought back from another double digit deficit to make it an 89-87 game, but a costly turnover and five point swing with the ball wrecked another one of Indiana's comeback attempts.
Monta Ellis was relatively quiet from the field, but came through with a couple of big shots to sink the dagger into the Pacers, who really had no reason to be in the game with some of the numbers Indiana was putting up. Turnovers were costly tonight, they were not only outscored 26-7 in points off turnovers, but their 21 on the night resulted played a key role in Dallas getting 14 extra field goal attempts on the night.
The only thing that really kept Indiana within range was their ability to shoot at or around 50% on the night. They also shot fairly well from behind the arc at 7-16, but they used up most of their margin for error in turnovers that there was no more room for mistakes; not from the bench, not from a lack of 50/50 ball success, and not from a pretty serious David West off night.
The bench put a taxing effort on the starting unit, scoring just four points on the night, shooting 1-8 from the field. Luis Scola blanked from the field and Evan Turner paved the way with two points on 1-3 shooting. Given Turner's expanded minutes with George's foul trouble, he was never really a part of the game offensively, and didn't offer up much resistance defensively, picking up four fouls of his own. The bench was outscored 41-4 with all five Mavericks bench players outscoring Indiana's entire bench unit. Except Jae Crowder, who still had four on his own.
Fouls were one of many issues for Indiana, who couldn't seem to go a possession without sending Dallas to the line in the third quarter. There were 50 total fouls called for 60 free throws, with the Mavericks shooting 15 free throws in the quarter, a huge problem for Indiana as they tried to mount their comeback. On Indiana's end, they shot 29 free throws, but split a ton of trips, going 23-29 on a night when they needed to take advantage of every point they could get.
George's frustration foul in the second quarter really turned his otherwise mostly top notch game on its head. George finished with a game high 27 points on 8-14 shooting with 9-9 from the line, but the game shifted in Dallas's favor when he had to go to the bench early in the third quarter. George finished with 11 rebounds as well, but might be judged mostly on a rebound he missed late in the game when Vince Carter simply kept it alive, which allowed him to come up with it, finding Jose Calderon for a backbreaking three pointer.
Lance Stephenson had his most involved offensive game in some time, scoring 21 points on 8-10 shooting, but was plagued with a team high six turnovers, including the turnover with Indiana trailing 89-87 with the ball. It was stolen as Harris raced in for an and one layup that turned a potential tie into a 92-87 Mavericks advantage. George Hill scored 20 points, including a pair of big three pointers to keep Indiana within striking distance. Roy Hibbert had a solid offensive night with 14 points on 6-9 shooting, but four turnovers and just five rebounds took away from his night.
West's night fit his 2-9 shooting night well. He scored just eight points, missing some easy shots along the way. Had he had a better night, Indiana finds themselves in better position. It's hard to fault West too much, and it's also important to note that Dirk Nowitzki was missing some easy shots of his own. Nowitzki had 14 points on 3-14 shooting, so it's fair that at least the two mostly washed each other out, despite West's 4-6 night from the line.
Despite it being another loss, dropping the Pacers to 46-17, they did show some progress over their last two outings. There's at least some minor sense of belief the team might be starting to find themselves, but this was a bad game to simply feel around and try and find your groove, and concerning trends about turnovers and their bench productivity is something just never seems like it's going to go away.
Indiana will have a chance on Tuesday to snap their four game skid when they host the Boston Celtics in their final meeting of the year. Indiana closed out a 102-97 win in Boston a week ago, but even a five-point win against a lottery bound team would seem like an exciting alternative to all of this losing. Miami gifted Indiana another stay of execution with the first seed, but despite their own struggles, they open up a four game home stand starting tomorrow night.