The Indiana Pacers let a very winnable game slip through their fingers tonight, dropping in frustrating fashion to the Miami Heat. The NBA is a shot-making league, and that adage was on full display in this game. The Pacers fell into a hole early and despite some pushes in the first half, they still found themselves down by 15 at the tail end of the half.
The Pacers became frustrated by the officiating in the second quarter, but finally used that frustration to their advantage to close the half with back-to-back buckets from Thaddeus Young. Indiana continued that fight in the third quarter, using an 11-0 run to cut the lead to two.
Unfortunately, the Pacers couldn’t get over the hump, being forced to respond to a barrage of Miami threes to close the quarter with twos. Lance Stephenson would hit Indiana’s first and only three pointer of the game with a minute left in the third, only to have Wayne Ellington respond with his third three of the quarter on the other end.
Stephenson’s energy kept the Pacers alive in the fourth, scoring 10 of his 15 points, but the frustration of Indiana’s inability to hit threes kept them from ever capitalizing on the momentum they seized. There were multiple points throughout the fourth where it felt like it was Indiana’s game to lose even as they tied the game and played within a point.
If it was Indiana’s game to lose, they lost it on their three point shooting. The Pacers took two threes with a chance to tie in the game’s final two and a half minutes. They obviously missed both, but it was fitting that Ellington would sink the dagger on his fourth three off of Indiana’s missed attempt.
The Pacers finished 1-18 from beyond the arc (Miami shot 13-30), the worst shooting effort from an NBA team since November 2016. Perhaps because the shot wasn’t falling for anyone else, but the team shied away from it in favor of looks inside. It amounted to 72 points in the paint, which kept them in the game, but that meant only two starters took a three.
This wasn’t necessarily a surprise in terms of Domantas Sabonis, who started in place of the injured Myles Turner, and had little trouble inside, scoring 18, but that did mean there was no attempt for Darren Collison in particular. The 44% three point shooter did hit a long two on the line late in the third, but it was his only shot from that range.
Almost miraculously, the Pacers finished the night shooting 50% from the floor and managed to somehow stay in the game not only with a historically bad night from deep, but were a dreadful 19-29 from the free throw line. Collison (3-3) was the only Pacer to go perfect from the line. As if that weren’t enough, the Pacers were also outscored 22-10 in points off turnovers, all despite winning the turnover battle.
Victor Oladipo would also lead all scorers in the game with 26 points, getting to the line 11 times (making eight) and coming up with seven rebounds and team highs four assists and three steals. Oladipo did all of his damage in the restricted area, shooting 9-12 at the rim, but went 0-6 from three despite getting the looks he’s sought out all season.
This loss proved frustrating not only from a Pacers performance angle, but in it being another like opponent they lost to. The Heat are another team the Pacers are fighting with directly in the Eastern Conference standings, and it’s the second team they won’t hold a head-to-head tiebreaker against after going 1-3 against Detroit.
The Pacers can still tie the season series with Miami at the end of March, but will need to do so on the road and will need other factors to work in their advantage as well if both teams are close late. In the meantime, the Pacers will face another tough challenge on Friday when they wrap up their home stand against the Cleveland Cavaliers.