A slow start for the Indiana Pacers set the tone for the entire night as Indiana dropped their sixth straight game, the latest to the Houston Rockets. The Pacers lumbered out of the gate, scoring just 15 points, falling behind 36-17 two minutes into the second quarter. Indiana struggled with turnovers early, with Solomon Hill totaling five of Indiana's 10 in the opening 14 minutes.
The Pacers trimmed the lead to 11 throughout the second quarter, but a James Harden three at the end of the half pushed the Rockets lead back to 14. The third quarter showed some urgency from Indiana early, but a struggle to manufacture offense continued to favor Houston, who had no struggle matching Indiana shot for shot, expanding their lead to 16 with 7:43 remaining in the third.
Indiana finally found some good fortune in the shape of a 10-2 run that once again allowed them within single digits. Harden pushed the lead nine as Damjan Rudez hit a shot clock beating three to kick off a 7-0 run that drew Indiana to within two at 68-66 with 1:23 remaining in the third. Despite the effort on both ends to push Indiana back in the game, but a 10-2 run by Houston to close the quarter would once again put Indiana in an impossible to overcome deficit.
End of quarter buckets were a big advantage for the Rockets, who after the third quarter, outscored Indiana 8-0 in final shots of quarters. That made up the entire difference between the two teams heading into the fourth, where Indiana had opportunities to make up the difference, but were unable to keep Houston off the line. The Rockets shot 20 free throws in the fourth quarter, half of those from Harden.
The Pacers would come up short on the scoreboard again, falling 110-100, marking the third game in five nights where the Pacers couldn't lock in defensively for long enough to keep the opponent from dropping the big 110. Houston shot a comfortable 47.7% on the night, a balmy 13-24 from three, and a scorching 35-37 from the charity stripe, no surprise all vastly outgunning Indiana.
Indiana was just 12-19 from the free throw line, making up a whopping 23 point difference. Indiana won big on the offensive glass 16-4, but only won 18-8 in second chance points. George Hill led Indiana with 20 points, getting an 18 & 10 double double from Roy Hibbert, but got little else outside of C.J. Watson, who led Pacers with 23 points, hitting four of Indiana's eight three pointers.
It's difficult to match wits with a team that has a great scorer like Houston does with James Harden when you have to rely on points by committee to come up with wins. Harden scored 44 points, 21 of those coming from the free throw line. Comically, that was worse than Harden's previous outing against Indiana, where he dropped 45.
With Boston winning tonight against Brooklyn, the Pacers drop a game out of the playoffs, sit in 10th place, and just generally doesn't look like a team without enough fight to wrap up their last 12 games. Indiana will head out on the road for four of their next five, beginning Wednesday against the Washington Wizards, who mercifully look less like the team that edged Indiana twice around the opening week of the season. Fingers crossed!