Another winnable game slipped through the grasp of the Indiana Pacers due to a single stretch of scoreless offense, dropping them to nine straight losses on the road, splitting the season series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Similar to most of those road losses, the effort was there, but the inability to put together a full 48-minute game ended up costing them.
Tonight’s collapse came in the form of being on the wrong side of a 24-0 run, the longest such run in the NBA this season. It took just six and a half scoreless minutes to completely turn the game on its head, canceling out a solid first half in which the Pacers had built a double figure lead.
The ability to get there makes this collapse all that more frustrating. The Pacers outscored Oklahoma City 27-16 in the second quarter, bouncing back from allowing a 6-0 run to close the first, building an eight point point lead with 2:45 remaining in the second. The Thunder scored the next four, casting feelings of déjà vu as the half neared, but Indiana pushed back, scoring the final five of the half to push ahead by nine.
Getting the game to double figures on a pair of Myles Turner jumpers appeared to be a good omen out of the break, but the failure to corral a Steven Adams offensive rebound put it back to single digits. The score stood frozen at 58-50 for two and a half minutes before another Adams offensive putback kickstarted the Thunder, allowing them to score on their next five possessions, including four from three point range.
Oklahoma City made it a double figure game when following a tough call on a strip by Wesley Matthews on Paul George, George drew another tough call on Matthews on an and one, completing a four point play after Matthews drew a technical foul, completing the 24-0 run.
As bad as the run was, the Pacers still didn’t play themselves out of the game. Tyreke Evans stopped the run, allowing Indiana to show some life on the offensive end, outscoring the Thunder 11-4 to close the third quarter. Still, the damage was done. Even in closing the quarter on a positive note, the Pacers wasted four scoring opportunities.
The inability to complete possessions in the second half ultimately kept the Pacers from ever capitalizing on a comeback opportunity even when Bojan Bogdanovic made it a five point game with eight minutes left. The Thunder responded, going back up by double figures with just over six minutes remaining in the quarter.
Indiana proceeded to do their job on the defensive end, holding the Thunder scoreless for almost three minutes. Through that entire stretch, the Pacers mustered up just four points, three of those immediately given back on a George circus shot and one, pushing the lead back out beyond 10.
The offense finally began opening up for the Pacers in the closing minutes. Bogdanovic scored eight in the final three minutes and Indiana as a team had 14. The bad news is that they were suddenly unable to get stops, allowing OKC to score on five straight possessions to close out the game.
Indiana brought the fight to the Thunder in the first half, but still struggled at times especially in keeping OKC off the glass. Adams had entered tonight’s game having averaged 6.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in their last five games, but outpaced both with ease, finishing with 25 points and 12 rebounds, seven of those coming on the offensive end.
As a team, the Pacers had eight total, setting up a 14-8 disadvantage in those second chance opportunities. The inability to contain Adams’s activity was frustrating for otherwise solid performances up front for the Pacers. Turner had 12 points and 14 rebounds with four blocks while Domantas Sabonis finished with an 18 & 10 double double of his own.
The second unit outscored OKC 30-10, but unfortunately the starting lineup didn’t return the favor. Bogdanovic finished with 28 points, hitting six of his nine three point attempts, but it was everything he could do to keep pace with George, who stepped up big in the second half after a pedestrian first half.
Four of Oklahoma City’s starters had 17 or more points, which may be an occupational hazard for guys like George or Russell Westbrook, but not so much for Jerami Grant, who finished with 19 points, hitting some big time shots late, including five threes total. He had just three points in the teams’ previous meeting.
On Indiana’s end, Matthews in particular was the opposite from deep, going just 2-10 despite having some positive looks in the second half. Darren Collison was 3-10 in his return, scoring eight and Thaddeus Young was also under 50% shooting, finishing with 11.
Indiana wrapped up their final game of the season against the Western Conference, going 15-15 overall, but just 2-5 in their last seven games. Overall, the Pacers have struggled to come up with wins in what was expected to be their defining stretch of the season, falling to 3-7. All seven losses have come on the road, all to above .500 teams.
Despite that, they’ve managed to hold tight to the fourth spot in the East, but have seen their lead slip to just one game over the Boston Celtics. The fourth spot will be up for grabs when the two teams meet in Boston on Friday, giving the Pacers an opportunity to snap their road losing streak and make a real push for homecourt heading into the final six games of the season, four of which are mercifully at home.