The writing was on the wall early for the Indiana Pacers when in dragging the Los Angeles Clippers into the muck, were unable to climb out themselves. With both teams shooting poorly and turning it over freely, it was the Clippers that righted themselves just enough to gain an advantage, using an 11-2 run late in the first to put them ahead by seven.
T.J. McConnell would flash some life into the Pacers with a pair of buckets late in the first, trimming two off the lead heading into the second. Once there, Doug McDermott took the reins, hitting the first of three threes in the quarter to put Indiana back into the lead. From there, the game went back and forth, though despite doing so, the struggle to find any level of consistent offense persisted for both teams.
The Clippers would find some light separation towards the middle of the quarter, but timely shooting brought the Pacers back to within a possession multiple times thanks to McDermott’s shooting. Jeremy Lamb would score five straight of his own to help bring the Pacers back to within a point at 46-45 with 2:25 remaining.
With both teams struggling to find offense, it’s no surprise the game shifted entirely in the favor of the Clippers when Paul George manufactured three foul shots by leaning sideways into T.J. Warren on a shot. George would follow those three points with six more, hitting his next two threes to push the Clippers up by nine.
When the dust settled on the half, Los Angeles pushed their advantage to 12 at 60-48, closing the quarter on a 14-3 run. The game completely got away from the Pacers in the third quarter as George scored 13 more out of the break, eventually doubling the Clippers advantage to 24 points late in the third.
After cutting the lead to 18 to end the quarter, the Pacers got another boost from McDermott, who had a pair of threes to make it a 100-88 game halfway through the fourth. Though the shooting continued to languish overall for the Pacers, they finally found some shots that went in from three point range, while also getting some manufactured points of their own from Warren, kicking his leg and drawing the foul on Patrick Beverley.
The Pacers came to within seven with 1:46 remaining, but while the continued to cut into the lead, they still weren’t getting a true string of stops. That inability to come away with stops manifested in the Los Angeles dagger, Mo Harkless following his own miss with a tip to make it a nine point game with under a minute remaining.
Indiana tried to make a game of it, but in the face of a 36-point night from George and 26 more from Montrezl Harrell, the Pacers had no real answer outside of McDermott, who led the second unit with 17 points. Four of the five starters did reach double figures, led by Malcolm Brogdon with 20, but efficiency wasn’t in the cards for anyone.
In fact, of the 11 players to log minutes for the Pacers, only McDermott shot above 50%. Part of the problem was Los Angeles’s ability to keep Indiana from finding a rhythm offensively. The Clippers used zone defense at stretches and then focused in on McDermott of all people late to keep him from making it a two-possession game.
The Pacers didn’t help themselves by bricking everything in sight. The Pacers shot 35.4% for the game, a slight uptick thanks to a better (but still brick heavy) fourth quarter. Warren, Indiana’s leading scorer the past two games, scored just 12 points on 2-8 shooting, taken out early due to foul trouble.
Myles Turner was just 2-9 for five points, which was somehow still better than Justin Holiday and Aaron Holiday’s combined 2-15 shooting (which itself was somehow still better than Lou Williams’s shocking 2-19 shooting). Brogdon’s 20 points was offset by just two assists. The Pacers had a season worst 16, which was definitely a product of Indiana’s poor shooting.
The poor shooting on both ends did provide Domantas Sabonis an opportunity to fill up the stat sheet, pulling in a career high 22 rebounds in the loss. Sabonis himself was well in line with the rest of the team shooting early, going 2-8 in the first half, but did carry the load late as a response to Indiana’s 24-point deficit, scoring 11 in the final 14 minutes of action, totaling 18 for the night.
Tonight’s loss proved a disappointing audition to a more difficult upcoming schedule. The Pacers barely looked competitive, needing to bring the Clippers back down to them rather than take a step towards their level. That becomes difficult to maintain when facing a team with an explosive player like George and Indiana did themselves in by offering no viable counter.
The Pacers will face another stiff test when they wrap up their two game home stand against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. The Celtics will enter second in the East, winners of four straight.