The final scoreboard says it all. If it doesn't, then the field goal percentages for both teams and Frank Vogel's worn down post game interview fills in the blanks. In a season full of bad performances, tonight was the low point. A 73-point performance off of two days rest on 30.7% shooting against a team on the second night of a back-to-back is going to be hard to top.
Despite putting up such a woeful shooting night, the Indiana Pacers actually had chances to come away with a win against the Denver Nuggets tonight. David West lifted the Pacers on his back to open the game; a familiar sight in rare form, scoring 11 of Indiana's first 13 points of the night. Indiana led 21-15 after the first quarter, but were unable to score at the same rate in the second quarter.
The Pacers had just 12 second quarter points, grasping to a one point halftime lead thanks to four late free throws in an ugly 33-32 affair. The two teams had their biggest output of the night in the third quarter, forcing the Pacers to claw through and keep pace against a Denver team that flirted with 40% shooting with a decent offensive outing in the third, pushing the game into a 55-55 tie heading into the final period.
Indiana scored the first five of the quarter to move up 60-55, but Denver responded with a 10-0 run, holding Indiana scoreless for five and a half minutes. C.J. Miles broke the drought, scoring the next four. West's jumper rimmed out on the following Indiana possession and the failure to drag in the offensive board set Denver up for a huge layup on the other end that proved a back-breaking four point swing in a game where points were impossible to come by.
A late 5-0 run by Denver put them up six points with under two minutes to go, and it took a Donald Sloan three with just over one second remaining to make up that five point difference, leading to Denver free throws and a missed 0.6 second heave to wrap up a devastatingly ugly 76-73 loss for the Indiana Pacers, who slipped into their eighth straight road loss, falling to 3-11 on the road and 8-19 overall.
For as big as David West was early, hitting five of his first six shots, including a three, his shot went awry late, with him missing all five of his fourth quarter attempts. It still put West at a 19 point, 10 rebound double double, but any of West's fourth quarter attempts going in would've been a big boost for a Pacers team that fell by the wayside with 13 fourth quarter points in the first 11 minutes of the quarter.
West wound up 8-22 on the night, relatively positive given the circumstances, getting little to no help from his teammates. C.J. Miles did offer up 16 points on 6-19 shooting, but aside from an 11-point night from Solomon Hill, a sx point, 10 rebound effort from Lavoy Allen, and nine points, seven boards, and four assists from Donald Sloan, the Pacers were firing blanks all night.
None worse than Roy Hibbert, who was once again strapped with foul trouble early and often, but did very little with his time on the floor, getting rolled up by Timofey Mozgov, drawing Hibbert into four of his five fouls. Hibbert on the night had zero points and four rebounds on 0-4 shooting. On one hand, he didn't have much time to make an impact, but as well, there was little reason to suspect he would've had a good night had he been able to play.
Whether Indiana missed Hibbert's rim protection is debatable, but the Nuggets carved up Indiana's interior defense all night, all while keeping Indiana out of the paint, outscoring the Pacers inside 48-18, a monumental bloodletting in a game that begged for easy opportunities at the rim. For Indiana to be unable to convert inside proved too big a gap in level of play to overcome.
Rodney Stuckey also had a terrible game shooting, going 1-10 from the floor, joined by Luis Scola, who went 1-7 shooting as well. It all accumulated into a game the Pacers would assume forget, and will have to, given they have to play the second night of a back-to-back in Minnesota tomorrow.
The Pacers will be the first to tell you tonight was the type of game they thrive in, the types of games they aim for, and look to come away with, but it doesn't matter how ugly the game gets, Indiana's inability to make plays late, not having someone who is capable of closing out games, will continue to put them into the loss column in any type of game.
Maybe Indiana will see an uptick in playing better late in games when George Hill returns to action within the next week, but given Indiana's injury history this season, it's not likely he'll have a reliably healthy supporting cast to make things easier for him if he does take on heavier lifting. Tonight's scratch? C.J. Watson with a respiratory infection. If it's not one thing, it's another with the Pacers.
Vogel was visibly worn out after tonight's game. And given his activity throughout the game, it's not hard to see why. Both teams played about as bad as possible, but the officiating crew was eager to join in with the off-night nature of the game, unable to find a balance in whistles, leading to a technical for Vogel, who felt the team was getting the short end of physical calls.
So it's on to Minnesota for the Pacers, who will face a rare team who have a worse record than they do in the Timberwolves, who sit at 5-20 on the season. Both teams are just 1-9 in their last ten games, the two worst marks in the league (shared with New York) making tomorrow night a rare opportunity for both teams to find water in the desert. If searching for optimism, it will at the very least be difficult for Indiana to play worse than they did tonight.