Execution proved a tall task for the Indiana Pacers, seeing their five game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Utah Jazz. Indiana never led tonight, but unlike their early struggles against Denver a night before, they were never able to prop themselves up with shotmaking to keep pace with Utah’s offense.
At no point was it more obvious than early in the second quarter, when trailing 31-27, Doug McDermott missed an open look from corner three. That miss parlayed into a crushing 8-0 Jazz run, suddenly putting the Pacers behind double figures. Indiana fell behind by as many as 17 in the second, but made it a single digit game late, only to watch another costly miss from three turn into points from the Jazz, a six point swing that made it a 56-44 game at the break.
Things didn’t improve for the Pacers out of the break. Bojan Bogdaonvic scored the first five as Utah went up by 19 on a 7-0 start to the third. Indiana never threatened after that as the misses continued to pile up, resulting in their first loss of the road trip. While the shooting would crawl above 40% in the fourth quarter, the Pacers spent much of the night in the upper 30’s.
They hit just three three pointers through the first 35 minutes, trailing 78-55 before Aaron Holiday hit the first of four the Pacers had to end the game. Hitting shots could have alleviated many of the issues Indiana had, particularly because of their ability to force turnovers with regularity. The Pacers forced 21 turnovers, but despite winning the turnover battle by nine, they were still outscored 23-16 off of those turnovers.
After having four different players with 22 points or more last night, they had just four double figure scorers tonight, led by Myles Turner and A. Holiday with 12 each. Both piled on late, particularly Holiday, who had a bit of a back-and-forth with Donovan Mitchell in the fourth, but outside a good stretch from Jeremy Lamb across the middle of the game (finishing with 11), there was simply on reliability on that end of the floor for the Pacers.
Part of that came to Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren. Warren had just four points on 2-4 shooting while Brogdon couldn’t find the bottom of the net, going 2-11 for five points. Indiana as a team was just 7-26 from three point range, allowing Utah to hit 12. The Pacers were also outscored 12-3 at the free throw line, though neither team found much success in getting calls, but Indiana missed four of their seven attempts while the Jazz were perfect.
Despite the final score, there were some positives in this one defensively. The 21 turnovers forced was the second most this season. It didn’t much help them score points, but a large number of them were live ball turnovers, giving them ample opportunities to stay in the game.
Turner had six of Indiana’s 15 steals in the game while Justin Holiday led the way with five of Indiana’s nine blocks. The effort was on display for the Pacers, they just weren’t rewarded for that energy at any turn tonight, at times their own doing, as evidenced by the numerous attempts to try and score on Rudy Gobert one-on-one.
Though Brogdon wanted Indiana to complete a perfect 5-0 road trip, the simple nature of this particular back-to-back, last night in Denver and tonight in Utah, made it a very tricky road to navigate. They made enough plays throughout to put themselves in position to win last night, but tonight? They simply didn’t.
There is still a long way to go on this trip, but the most difficult part of it is now behind them. Their next three opponents are all on the outside looking in the Western Conference Playoffs, starting with the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.