After falling short due to their defense in their previous two games, the Indiana Pacers shook things up, allowing their offense to falter in crucial moments to lead to their third straight loss to start the season. The Pacers shot just 41.5%, including a dreadful 6-21 from three point range. Those struggles erased their positives strides in other areas, especially as the Detroit Pistons continued to light them up from deep, shooting 13-24.
The Pacers followed a familiar script in the first half, falling behind by 10 in the first quarter behind an 11-2 Pistons run. Detroit held Indiana at arm’s length for the remainder of the first half, but every sniff of momentum by the Pacers was immediately snuffed out by Detroit stops or big time buckets. Even as Indiana appeared to close the half with a purpose, they gave up an Andre Drummond and-one with two seconds left, doubling a three point deficit heading into the break.
Offense became harder to come by for both teams in the second half, but it didn’t stop Detroit from continuously finding timely shotmaking when they absolutely needed it. The Pacers continued their Sisyphus climb throughout the third and fourth quarters, coming up short when they were on runs and surrendering three after three to otherwise poor three point shooters Christian Wood and Bruce Brown.
The duo went 6-6 from three point range having made just one combined three in their first three outings. That kind of killer production off the bench was exactly the kind of difference making the Pacers have been desperately missing and continued to do so tonight, contributing extensively to Indiana’s inability to break through into the lead throughout the second half.
The Pacers did manage to inch their way closer and closer through the fourth quarter, however, withstanding more timely shooting from the Pistons to break through into the lead with a little under three minutes to go at 91-90. Malcolm Brogdon’s playmaking helped alleviate T.J. Warren’s poor shooting in the first two games as he scored four of six to push Indiana into the lead.
After a pair of misses, including a wide open three from Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis pulled in the offensive board, which Brogdon turned into a corner three from Warren, giving the Pacers a four point lead with 1:42 remaining.
On the other end, Justin Holiday appeared to cover Luke Kennard well, but Kennard spun just free enough to heave up a shot that bounced off the front of the rim and into the basket, cutting the lead to one. With offense at such a premium in the second half, getting this kind of answered prayer felt especially painful for the Pacers, who again saw solid looks from Brogdon go awry on the other end, setting up Derrick Rose for the go-ahead layup with 28 seconds to go.
Indiana again got another good shot from Brogdon from three that missed, but Sabonis was again in position to pull in the rebound. However, the ball would find its way to Warren, who in the corner appeared unaware at the shot clock reset, throwing up a panic three with seven seconds left to send the ball back to the Pistons with 2.8 on the clock.
The Pacers got a break when Kennard split a trip at the free throw line courtesy of a Drummond goaltend, but Indiana failed to capitalize on running the same catch and shoot corner three play they used in India to defeat Sacramento, falling 96-94 in excruciating fashion.
In their first 0-3 start since 2015, the Pacers won much of the game, but the three point shot proved too much of an equalizer to overcome. Being outscored by 21 from the three point line erased a healthy 23-7 advantage in points off turnovers, a 16-3 fast break advantage, and 14 extra points in the paint, doing all of this while holding the Pistons to 37 second half points.
Even still, they failed to come away with the win, in part because of their inability to sustain play on both ends of the floor. Through 12 quarters, the Pacers are 7-5, but have won those seven quarters by a total of 21 points, as opposed to losing by 39 in the remaining five quarters. Their five point fourth quarter win tonight matched their largest of the season, clearly showing how much they’ve struggled to piece together consistent play across stretches of games.
That lack of consistency was on display among the starting lineup as flashes of excellent play was paired with costly struggles. Brogdon had his worst shooting night of the season (5-17 for 15 points), something that wasn’t aided much by the rest of the starters. T.J. Warren had a season high of 19 points, but needed 22 shots to get there, finding success in bunches surrounding a lot of misses.
Up front, Sabonis was just 8-18, he and Warren missing a number of shots around the rim. Myles Turner finished with 16 points on 7-11 shooting, pulling in all five of his rebounds on the offensive glass, leading to seven second chance points, but again appears just a little off in terms of his rim protection this season. Edmond Sumner again led the way for the Pacers in terms of energy, immediately making a stamp, though he finished with just five points on 2-7 shooting himself.
Off the bench, Nate McMillan didn’t shift up the rotations at all, granting extended run for Justin Holiday and granting T.J. McConnell all of the backup point guard minutes. Holiday hit a pair of threes in his 23 minutes and provided some nice defensive possessions and T.J. Leaf had his best game of the young season with six points.
Unfortunately, two of those points came harder than they had to as he floated up a jumper against a double team due to Detroit’s disregard to McConnell’s ability to shoot. McConnell, like Leaf and J. Holiday, finished with six points, which highlights how inept the Indiana bench currently is due to the injuries of Victor Oladipo and Jeremy Lamb as well as the continually asinine rotation decisions for McMillan in regards to Indiana’s young players.
Indiana’s bench was outscored 46-18, with Wood leading the Detroit second unit with 19. The combination of gritty veteran role players and heavy starter minutes has currently left the Pacers rotation without any sort of balance, forcing nearly 40 minutes on Warren, Sabonis, and Turner.
With New York rallying late to win against Chicago, the Pacers become the last winless team in the East at 0-3. The Pacers will next have an opportunity to grab that elusive first win on Wednesday when they travel east to face Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets, a tall order if there ever was one.