Missed opportunities early didn’t change the outcome for the Indiana Pacers in a loss against the Houston Rockets, but it did take away a chance to be in it late when the Rockets turned up their three point shooting and turned a competitive game into a blowout.
The Pacers led 27-22 after the first quarter thanks to their ability to force turnovers and block shots, but their defensive play didn’t translate into points. The Pacers left points on the board throughout the first, which really hurt when Houston began to go on runs.
The Rockets outscored Indiana 67-44 in the second and third quarters, but in the midst of that, the Pacers had the game tied early in the third and were as close as six halfway through the quarter. The game really changed from that point on, when James Harden woke up from three, leading Houston on a 17-5 run to close the third, the team hitting five consecutive threes and not missing a shot in that stretch.
Ultimately, the three point shooting of the Rockets just overwhelmed Indiana. Both teams had 42 field goals for the game, but Houston converted on 11 extra threes while also holding a healthy free throw advantage (16-6). The Pacers had just six attempts all night, while also shooting just 7-28 from deep, a difficult combination when hitting so many fewer threes.
Individually, the Pacers had six double figure scorers, led by Thaddeus Young with 23. Young scored 11 of Indiana’s first 13 points in the fourth quarter, bringing the Pacers to within 10 with 7:54 remaining. Victor Oladipo had 19 on 8-20 shooting, filling out the stat sheet again with five assists, five steals, and a pair of first quarter blocks.
Oladipo had five assists along with Darren Collison, but the Pacers had just 18 on the night, dropping them to 1-6 in games when they fail to get at least 20 assists. Lance Stephenson did have four himself, putting together a solid shooting night with 11 points on 5-8 from the floor.
Stephenson entered tonight’s game averaging just 4.3 points per game on 35.6% shooting on the road, making this a sort of breakout game for him. With how well Stephenson is playing at home lately, a showing like this can hopefully push him towards better play on the road, which will go a long way in keeping the Pacers playing well on the road...despite tonight’s outcome.
As Young did early in the fourth to draw the Pacers back into the game, it was Myles Turner in the third that helped bring Indiana to within striking distance, scoring seven of his nine third quarter points in the first six minutes. Turner finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds while also coming up with four blocks, even though all four came in the first quarter. Bojan Bogdanovic also finished with 15, hitting a team high three threes.
In the end, the Pacers ran into a better team tonight, though they did a much better job of staying in the game compared to their November 12th matchup with the Rockets. Whether that’s growth as a team or simply a different game flow to the same outcome, the Pacers can look to give some answers when they head north for a Friday night matchup against the Toronto Raptors in the 6.