Another disappointing performance from the Indiana Pacers drop them to 0-2 on the season following a frustrating loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers, who led by two after the first quarter, were on the wrong side of a 17-0 run in the second, which allowed the Cavaliers to put Indiana in their rearview for good.
It was another game where defense was a big problem, the inability to not foul creating a situation where the Pacers were unable to absorb the second quarter woes. Cleveland shot 14 free throws in the first quarter, giving them 10 extra points. The free throws created early foul trouble for both Domantas Sabonis and Edmond Sumner, which threw Indiana’s rotation into flux, already being down Jeremy Lamb with a hip contusion.
Things really fell apart for the Pacers in the second half. Cleveland caught fire from deep in the quarter, outscoring Indiana 39-20 in the quarter. There wasn’t much in the way of fire early in the second half as the Cavs continued to pile on, scoring Indiana 9-2 out of the locker room. That would effectively do it for the Pacers, who had their runs, but miscues and poor defense would keep them from ever really challenging the Cavaliers in the second half.
The Pacers did climb to as close as seven in the fourth, but with just 1:14 on the clock, there was no room for error. That error came when Tristan Thompson calmly hit a floater to shut the door on the game. The Pacers again had a dynamic duo problem, allowing wildly efficient games from both Thompson and Kevin Love. Love was a catalyst early, scoring 21 points on 5-8 shooting and Thompson wasn’t that far off in terms of efficiency, going 11-16 for 25, including his very first three pointer for good measure.
The duo also combined for 26 rebounds, which is part of the reason why the Pacers were once again crushed on the glass. They were outrebounded 44-36 overall, but the 12-6 difference on the offensive glass, which allowed Cleveland a 14-3 advantage in points off of those rebounds.
Cleveland’s shooting cooled off from deep in the second half, but they made up for it in a big way in the paint. After both teams shot just above 50% in the first half in the paint, the Cavaliers had no issue in the second half, going a perfect 13-13 inside while the Pacers languished, especially in the third quarter going 3-9. That difference in getting easy buckets proved to be just the perfect advantage for the Cavaliers in never letting Indiana get too close.
Rotation wise, Nate McMillan played it incredibly safe, opting to grant larger minutes to both T.J. McConnell and Justin Holiday. Holiday had 10 points and a pair of steals in 24 minutes, but ate up all of Sumner’s minutes after he picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter. Sumner finished with 10 himself, but was a big energy catalyst for the second straight game.
McMillan’s decision to stick with Holiday through the entire fourth quarter as opposed to Sumner was a perplexing one, though momentum didn’t escape Indiana’s grasp as often late in the game as it did throughout it. McConnell on the other hand logged 21 minutes, shooting 1-6 with three turnovers, taking the backup point guard spot entirely from Aaron Holiday in this one, which can only be justified if overly concerned about Matthew Dellavedova’s veteran savvy, which was not a factor at all in the game.
T.J. Leaf and Doug McDermott didn’t find much more success, going 2-10 together for eight points. Goga Bitadze made his NBA debut, logging four minutes and making his first basket.
First NBA bucket for Goga #NBARooks pic.twitter.com/VwMXOWEnkA— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 27, 2019
Unfortunately, he came up limping with right knee soreness, ending his night early. The end result was a second unit that scored just 22 points, a -11 as Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. combined for 24. The decision to completely shut out A. Holiday from the rotation paid absolutely no dividends where a worst case scenario isn’t much worse than fighting back from 24 down in the second half.
In the starting lineup, it wasn’t smooth sailing either. The early foul trouble put the Pacers in a difficult position with Sumner and Sabonis, but even when Sabonis was on the floor, he was a step down from his performance on Wednesday, scoring just 14 points on 6-13 shooting with five rebounds. Myles Turner also struggled shooting, going 3-9, two of those coming from deep, though he did finish with an 11 & 11 double double, leading the team in rebounding.
Unfortunately, what little success the duo found on the offensive side didn’t carry over defensively. Thompson and Love went to work on both players, outscoring them by 21, but whatever the Pacers are doing defensively seems to push Turner into a no-win situation in terms of rim protection, where he was a step slow all night in contesting layups. Add in a 6-15 shooting night from T.J. Warren and it was a minor miracle the Pacers finished the night at nearly 45%.
Getting there took a big night from Malcolm Brogdon, shooting 12-18 and finishing with 30 points and 10 rebounds. Brogdon had nine in the fourth quarter, and was a part of almost everything offensively for the Pacers in the last six minutes, scoring four with three assists. Unfortunately it was too little too late in terms of guiding the Pacers back to a win, but his performance showed that there are the expected bright spots on the roster, even if the wins are escaping them early.
Nothing has really gone Indiana’s way in the first two games and whether that is due to simply needing to figure things out or far deeper issues with the makeup of the team sans Victor Oladipo, they’re doing a poor job of executing at what feels like everything. They’ll be back in action on Monday when they face the now 1-2 Detroit Pistons in the second of their three game road trip.