It was only fitting that if the Indiana Pacers were going to lose tonight to the Miami Heat, it was going to happen in the fashion it did. Up one with 30 seconds left, the Pacers forced a Jimmy Butler miss. In chasing down the rebound, Justin Holiday saved the ball out of bounds, tossing it right back to Butler.
Butler found Kendrick Nunn, who drove to the basket, tried to flip it up and under and missed. Three different Heat players tipped the ball, eventually falling into the hands of Bam Adebayo, dishing to Goran Dragic, who floated in the go-ahead bucket with 6.8 seconds remaining in the fourth.
Those rebounds were the 13th and 14th offensive rebounds of the night for the Heat. The final two points scored by Dragic were the 14th and 15th points they scored off of those offensive rebounds. Meanwhile, the Pacers were completely shut out on the offensive glass through three quarters.
Indiana finally found some life in the fourth with two they converted into layups, but those slight improvements weren’t enough to overcome their inability to rebound with the game on the line. Despite that, they did still have another crack at the game winner. Aaron Holiday spun his way free on the final possession, flipping up a shot that went awry, the Pacers again not in position to pull in a rebound that could’ve given then a quick look, dropping them into the loss column 113-112.
Despite rebounding being a major subplot, both the Pacers and Heat traded blows throughout the night in what was a very well played game. Just as one side appeared to gain an advantage, the opponent stormed back into view, a flow that favored the Pacers late, when the Heat scored nine straight early in the fourth to go up by as many.
Indiana responded, thanks in large part to Doug McDermott, pushing into the lead halfway through the quarter behind the fourth quarter play of Aaron Holiday and Myles Turner. Unfortunately for the Pacers, Miami’s shooting proved too potent, allowing the Heat to hit 16 threes, topping their own 14 makes.
The Pacers, on the wrong end of so many aspects of the game, had to get in the way back machine with how they overcame their deficits. The Pacers committed just four turnovers in the game, forcing the Heat into 13. In tune with Pacers teams of the past couple of years, Indiana used that to their advantage, outscoring the Heat 15-2 in points off turnovers, racking up a total of 21 fast break points.
The offense being in a rhythm of sorts also helped the Pacers. Though they finished at 48.9% for the game, they were above 50% for much of it. That led to seven double figure scorers, with A. Holiday leading the way with 17. Holiday stepped up with confidence in the second half, scoring nine after the break, including the go-ahead bucket with five minutes remaining in the game.
Unfortunately, he would miss his last three shots, all within the final four minutes. In that four minute stretch, the Pacers had six points, but zero assists, resulting in a lot of sticky hands and a fair share of bricks. Jeremy Lamb scored four of his six fourth quarter points in those final four minutes, finishing with 16. He was a big boost early, scoring the first eight of the game for Indiana, but was held mostly in check, taking just 11 shots on the game.
T.J. Warren also finished with 16, taking just 12 himself, but similar to Holiday and Lamb, simply didn’t have the distance on his shots. Combined, the three of them were 3-11. They did do all of the lifting at the free throw line, combining for 10-10. Warren had five himself, getting in a battle with Butler late, even drawing an offensive foul with 1:10 on the clock.
Up front, Myles Turner had 13 points and six rebounds, hitting his first two of three triples. He would be taken out of the game just shy of nine minutes in when he picked up a pair of fouls against Butler. Turner was removed roughly about the same time he was in the win over Toronto, but unlike that game, he was not put back in the game for the remainder of the half.
Whatever the reason, Turner did nearly the entire third quarter before picking up foul #3 & 4 against Butler with under two remaining in the third. This didn’t ultimately affect Turner the remainder of the game; he didn’t pick up another foul and even got an out of bounds play overturned via challenge, but to not see him at all in the second, the lone 30-point quarter for the Heat, may have been a costly defensive decision.
Part of the reason why it may have been so costly was due to a wildly ineffective night from Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis had a season low eight points on the night, not even scoring until the later stages of the second quarter. The inability to score (shooting 4-11) didn’t pair well with his inability to secure rebounds (seven total, his second lowest of the season). Goga Bitadze meanwhile closed the first with Turner’s foul trouble, but didn’t return, playing just four minutes.
Off the bench, the Pacers did get solid contributions throughout. McDermott led the way with 14 points, hitting 4-7 from three point range. Unfortunately, he missed his final two in the fourth after making two to start the quarter, a similar fate that befell Justin Holiday, who missed two fourth quarter threes after hitting three in the first half as part of his 11 point night.
Edmond Sumner had an impressive night, scoring a season high 11, bringing some night energy with two steals and two blocks (both of which led the team with others). He had a nice highlight play early in the second, blocking a deep three point attempt from Tyler Herro, getting out in transition, and scoring a bucket from T.J. McConnell to put Indiana up by seven at the time.
In the end, the Pacers let this one slip through their fingers much in the same fashion they let rebounding get away from them all night. The Heat outrebounded Indiana 56-34, which was, unsurprisingly, the largest gap of the season. Their two offensive rebounds was also a season low. The Pacers still very nearly overcame that deficit against a Miami team that has lost just a single game at home all season to date, which could be...encouraging?
The Pacers, who climbed into fifth on Christmas Day, drop back down to the all-too familiar sixth seed with tonight’s loss. They also failed to keep pace with the Heat, dropping 2.5 games behind both them and Boston, which is a tough blow against a pair of teams that are now riding four and five game winning streaks respectively.
It will be a quick turnaround for Indiana on this two-game road trip, as they finish up a back-to-back against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans, despite being just 9-23, have been playing their best basketball of late, which will make a Holiday Bros. reunion a tough outing.