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Pacers choke away another game late, lose to Raptors 99-96

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Indiana fell apart in the fourth quarter, getting outscored 24-11. They’ve now lost their second straight game late, aided by another missed no-call call by officials. Victor Oladipo scored 20 to lead the Pacers.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Groundhog’s Day has came early for the Indiana Pacers, who turned another fourth quarter collapse into another missed call at the end by officials, sealing another heartbreaking loss, this time to the Toronto Raptors. The Pacers were outscored 24-11 in the fourth quarter, continuing to turn the ball over with the same reckless abandon they had all night.

The only difference between the fourth quarter and the rest of the game was that the Raptors made sure the Pacers paid for their mistakes late. On the night, Indiana had 23 turnovers, leading to 23 points for the Raptors, outscoring the Pacers by 15. The Pacers led by as many as 17 in the third quarter, but were forced to be defensive the rest of the quarter as Toronto chipped the lead down to 10.

Indiana actually scored the first three points of the fourth to push their lead to 13, but from there, it was just a complete mess. In the final 10 minutes of the game, they were outscored 24-8, shot 4-15, and committed five costly turnovers, including a rare 8 second violation and losing a jump ball, both coming in the final minute of the game.

Victor Oladipo committed both of those turnovers, capping a fourth quarter in which the Toronto defense bottled up Indiana offensively, turning them into an isolation team late. As a result, the Pacers had an even lower assist total tonight compared to their terrible night against Cleveland, dishing just 19. Oladipo had six turnovers, but he wasn’t alone: Darren Collison had five more.

Outside of a couple of big buckets late, Collison offered up very little, finishing with seven. Oladipo himself had 20, but struggled with coming up with the right play late in the game. Indiana also struggled late in the game with offensive rebounding. Toronto had three of their 11 in the fourth on two possessions, and they scored on both, including the go-ahead three by Fred VanVleet with 26 seconds left.

Despite that, the Pacers actually continued to hold up well defensively. The 24 point quarter for Toronto tied their lowest of the night and Myles Turner was a force, blocking two shots in the last 2:30, also altering another. However, with the offensive as poor as it was in the fourth, there was little chance of the defense bailing them out. Turner had another double double with 10 points and 14 rebounds, blocking five shots on the night.

Bojan Bogdanovic was the best option for the Pacers throughout the night, scoring 18 on 7-13 shooting, hitting three threes. His final attempt may have gone astray as it was heavily contested, but OG Anunoby swiped at Bogdanovic’s arm, getting away with the foul on the game’s final possession.

As for the no call, it’s easy to point directly at Indiana’s shortcomings in the fourth as the reason they lost and it’s absolutely valid. Putting your fate in the hands of the officiating crew will always betray you as proven the last two nights, but it’s also not likely to expect an elite team like Toronto to roll over on their home floor with the game on the line.

Indiana should do better, but so too should the NBA’s officiating. Both things can be true in this case. As long as the league plans on being transparent with their calls in the last two minutes via the two minute report, these kinds of game deciding no-calls are only being amplified. Indiana played terribly in the fourth, yes, but the lack of correct call kept them from getting the chance to overcome that.

Of course, unlike last night, there’s no guarantee the correct call puts Indiana into the win column. It would start with three free throws from Bogdanovic, no certainty given Indiana’s 11-16 night from the line (Bogdanovic being 1-2), and even had they all gone, it would have went to overtime with Toronto controlling all the momentum. A loss in either is better than what the league will do tomorrow: pat their own chest, look at the Pacers, and say, “Sorry, that’s our bad.”

From here, the Pacers will stay on the road, heading southeast to New York City to face the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are winners of seven straight, setting up another tough challenge for the Pacers, who have still not lost three straight games in the 2018 calendar year.