The Indiana Pacers suffered another avoidable loss in abysmal fashion, this time to the Atlanta Hawks. A disastrous third quarter turned an already frustrating five-point halftime deficit into a shocking 23-point gap in the final minute of the quarter. It took Indiana almost four minutes to score out of the half, with the Hawks creating four turnovers and blocking four shots in that time frame as they outscored the Pacers 10-0.
Much like their terrible loss to Dallas, the Pacers finally showed up to play in the fourth quarter, chipping away at the lead and cutting it all the way down to two heading into the final minute. While the Pacers decided to shift their focus away from Bojan Bogdanovic, who had shot them back into the game, the Hawks were steadfastly focused on closing out the win on the back of Dennis Schroder, who scored seven straight to push Atlanta to the win.
Bogdanovic finished with a game high 26 points, hitting all five of his threes in the fourth quarter. The Pacers found considerable success drawing defenders with Victor Oladipo and finding Bogdanovic wide open, but that play fell out of favor as the Pacers found themselves in a two possession game.
Oladipo took it upon himself late in the game, shooting four consecutive shots with the Pacers trailing by six. Going to your best player late is rarely a bad strategy, but Oladipo was just 1-4 in that stretch, including two missed three pointers. The drives to the basket and the midrange continue to be there for Oladipo, but his three point shot is a major detriment to his and the team’s success at the moment.
In his last 15 games, Oladipo is shooting just 26% on 5.6 attempts a night, including a 1-9 outing in this game, with just one game above 50% from deep. Fortunately for the Pacers, they did do a better job as a team hitting threes, putting in 11 on the night on 34% shooting. That included a pair early from Joe Young to keep the Hawks from blowing the game wide open early, but while a welcome sight from Young, they represented the duct tape nature of the game well.
Indiana simply had no excuse to drop this game, not in the first place, but especially not after how they fell in Dallas. How the Pacers showed up, ill-equipped to handle an energized Hawks team was reminiscent of the play of past Pacers team, not this one. So to see them buy into themselves and try and patchwork their way through these last two games has been a disappointing sight.
Oladipo has six steals on the night, but the Hawks still managed to match the Pacers as team with 13. That led to the Pacers finishing with 24 turnovers on the night, getting blown out 29-16 in points off turnovers allowing 18 points to come in transition. The Hawks also had 11 blocks while the Pacers had just five, including zero from their block leader Myles Turner.
Turner picked up a pair of quick fouls in tonight’s game, removing him from the game in every form, as he scored just five points in 16 minutes, getting no floor action as Schroder went to work down the stretch. Turner could have provided some much needed rim protection in the closing seconds, but that would’ve meant limiting a solid outing from Domantas Sabonis.
Sabonis had 14 points and 12 rebounds and was crucial late in helping the Pacers draw the game to within a single possession, scoring four and coming up with a pair of offensive rebounds. Off the bench as well, Lance Stephenson finished with 18 points on 7-14 shooting, giving the Pacers a healthy dose of both Good Lance and Bad Lance.
Stephenson seemed to match every positive play with an equally perplexing one, but still logged 30 minutes with Cory Joseph and Glenn Robinson III struggling, combining for zero points on 0-8 shooting. Thaddeus Young would be the fifth Pacer in double figure with 11 to go with five rebounds, three assists, three steals, and a team high two blocks.
As bad as these two losses are for the Pacers, they are gifted with the rare opportunity to make up for them against teams they’re searching for tiebreakers against, but to be fair, the trend is not positive in this team getting things figured out. The Pacers had stretches tonight where they couldn’t even pass the ball without the risk of it resulting in a turnover, so how can they expect to take that into their next game Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks and their length without coming to some swift and decisive fixes?
Fortunately for the Pacers, things aren’t going all too well for anyone in the 4-7 range, with all four teams now riding losses, including short losing streaks by both Philadelphia and the Bucks. That keeps Indiana up a game on both teams and keeps them within 1 1⁄2 games of the 4th place Washington Wizards.