A familiar outcome continues to haunt the Indiana Pacers in an avoidable overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors. In a game defined by bad offense, the rewards went to the team that was able to make the key buckets; in tonight's case, the Raptors. DeMar DeRozan had a big fourth quarter, though it was the Pacers that put themselves in position to win the game late in the closing seconds.
A big defensive stop and steal by Solomon Hill set Monta Ellis up in transition in with under 20 seconds to go, as he got fouled heading towards the basket. The Pacers trailed by one, having the chance to put Indiana ahead by one, but he missed the first free throw, effectively giving away another win due to an inability to hit their crucial free throws. On the night, the Pacers were horrid at the line, shooting just 16-23, all seven misses hurting Indiana on a night they gave Toronto 38 attempts.
The miss by Ellis set up overtime, where Indiana's 1-6 record didn't get any better. Kyle Lowry had seven in the overtime period, schooling both Jordan Hill and Myles Turner without prejudice. The end result was an avoidable 101-94 loss, a franchise record seventh overtime loss, and another post-game spent wondering what needs to be done to close games with consistency.
Free throws ended up being the story of the night, but rebounding cost Indiana numerous opportunities as well. The Raptors climbed to 36% in overtime after spending much of the game under 33%, but 15 offensive rebounds set up extra opportunities in a game where points were at a premium. Bismack Biyombo piggybacked his way to a staggering 25 on the night as Toronto outboarded Indiana 57-48.
In the end, Toronto's biggest names in Lowry and DeRozan came up big, with the two of them each reaching 28, hitting crucial shots with the game on the line. The same was far less prolific on the Pacers side of the ball, where 18 point nights were the highs for both Paul George and George Hill. George was 7-24 on the night, just 1-9 from behind the arc on a night Indiana shot 28.6%. George was also 3-6 from the line when a single make could've pushed Indiana into the win column.
Hill on the other hand was a solid contributor for much of the night. He came up with some big plays throughout the night, hitting three of his five attempts, but also missed a crucial free throw of his own in overtime to keep Indiana alive in the final moments. C.J. Miles matched Hill from deep with three of his own threes, but was never really able to piece together a consistent night, thought he did lead the bench with 13.
Jordan Hill had a big first quarter, scoring all 11 of his points as Indiana scratched to stay alive after a pitiful quarter all around. For as important as he was early, he was as much a detriment late, with crucial lapses on defense and helping decide the game late by failing to corral an easy rebound pushing Indiana into the loss column. The absence of Ian Mahinmi and the foul trouble of Lavoy Allen forced Hill into action.
Frank Vogel's lack of trust in the rookie Myles Turner became justified as Turner was worked in the overtime period, but hopefully learned some valuable lessons that will help him improve heading towards the postseason, one that could certainly be a seven game contest against these same Raptors. Turner did have nine points thanks in large part to a big third quarter, however.
If not George Hill, the best player of the night for the Pacers was Solomon Hill. Solo did all the dirty work, but was a key part of Indiana's offense, scoring 12 points and pulling in seven rebounds, even finding time to knock in a three pointer, which is always exciting. Hill was also a perfect 3-3 from the line, remaining Indiana's best free throw shooter, which would be nice to use in these sorts of late-game situations.
The loss pushes Indiana to just 1.5 games over 8th place Chicago but also three games behind sixth place Charlotte. While it's not a certainty Indiana's played themselves out of a higher seed, they continue to make things far more difficult on themselves with these kinds of avoidable losses. And with another tough game coming up against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana could really have an uphill climb if they can't complete the season sweep against the Thunder on Saturday.