In the midst of the holiday season, it’s important to remember those who are less fortunate. The Indiana Pacers as a franchise do wonderful work in the community for Thanksgiving and Christmas to provide meals and toys to local residents and families. Overwhelmed with the joy of giving, the team continues to extend their charity to the court, where they’ve been providing less fortunate teams with wins all season.
The Pacers predictably followed up their latest two game winning streak with a ceremonial egg-laying against one of the most win starved teams in the league, offering up a charitable win to the Miami Heat, their fifth loss among the seven worst teams in the league. The Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, and Denver Nuggets have been plenty charitable, giving up three losses against the same five teams, but the Pacers remain determined to stand alone in this category.
The Heat blasted Indiana out of AmericanAirlines Arena with an astounding 58-38 rebounding edge. Part of that was on the overwhelming number of Pacers misses; Indiana shot just 37.1% for the game, but could only pull in six offensive rebounds with Hassan Whiteside pulling 16 of his 22 rebounds on the defensive end.
Whiteside also matched all six of Indiana’s offensive boards, scoring 26 points, eight on second chance opportunities. With Miami shooting a woeful 14-25 from the free throw line, and the Pacers minding their turnovers through three quarters with just three, Indiana was still able to take a 79-78 lead into the fourth.
But with six turnovers in the fourth and a scoreless stretch for the first five and a half minutes of the final quarter, Indiana would slog through a 10 point quarter, shooting just 5-18 from the floor. As the antithesis of their stellar fourth quarter against Charlotte, the Pacers watched the game fall apart in slow motion, as the Heat did all they could to keep Indiana in the game.
It was a rare off-night in the clutch for Paul George, who was just 1-5 in the fourth, wrapping up a 22 point, seven rebound night on 8-22 shooting. George only got to the line once, hitting both of his attempts as the Pacers only shot 17 free throws as a team. Myles Turner also had a difficult time shooting the ball, scoring 11 on 5-13 shooting, but seeing all three of his three attempts rim in and out, a common problem for Indiana as a team.
From Jeff Teague’s early misses to Aaron Brooks going-down-with-the-ship mentality in the fourth, the Pacers guard play did little to outplay a Heat back court that was more than welcoming to it. Outside of Tyler Johnson, there was little threat from the Heat guards.
In fact, the biggest play they made all night was Wayne Ellington holding Glenn Robinson III down long enough to get kicked in the back of the head. Robinson left the game and though he would return shortly, he was glued to the bench for a majority of the fourth.
It was a curious decision in Nate McMillan’s case to use Robinson exclusively as someone to eat up time in order to give Teague’s foul trouble a breather while allowing Brooks to run amok in the fourth. Brooks had just four points on the night and was 2-5 in the fourth, finding as many shots for himself as George and taking more than Turner.
Brooks’s tunnel vision forced a three second violation early in the fourth as Turner held an advantage calling for the ball while Brooks looked for a bail out shot, and yet he was still allowed to remain in the game only to miss back-to-back shots with just over four minutes to go and the Pacers desperate for points.
It’s easy to look at Monta Ellis as the problem, and while that may be true, tonight’s effort from the guards shows just how far off the guard rotation is from being worthy of high level contention, not to even mention the glaring need for a ball hungry rebounder.
Brooks played extended minutes due to a hamstring injury to Rodney Stuckey, which took him out of the game with 10 points on 3-12 shooting. Teague also finished with 10 points, and the two combined for eight of Indiana’s 14 assists. Even though shots weren’t falling, the Pacers did a poor job finding guys in positions to make easy plays.
The Pacers will have a quick turnaround tomorrow when they travel to New Orleans to face the Pelicans, who are also down on their luck this season. So Indiana can keep the charitable spirit alive and give one of the league’s worst teams a much needed win, or they finally become greedy. At 3-9 on the road, however, there’s enough to see that greed may not be a strong trait of this Pacers team.