A terrible first quarter paired with an almost-as-bad fourth quarter put the Indiana Pacers in the loss column against the New York Knicks. The Pacers were just 5-23 shooting in the first quarter, scoring a season low 11 points. They shot 5-18 in the fourth, totaling just 14 points. Marcus Morris Sr. meanwhile had 12 of his 28 in the fourth, singlehandedly closing the door on any aspirations Indiana might have had in winning the game.
As bad as things were for the Pacers, they did have opportunities throughout to pull through, but even when things were going right for them offensively, their inability to get key stops and key rebounds always kept New York just a step ahead. Indiana trailed by as many as 17 in the second and were guided back to within eight by Domantas Sabonis and Doug McDermott.
Just when they did, Damyean Dotson hit back-to-back threes to keep New York ahead by double figures heading into the half. Myles Turner played a big role in guiding the Pacers back after the break, hitting the first three pointer of the game for the Pacers on the opening possession of the quarter. It was the first of three for Turner, who had back-to-back makes around the four minute mark.
Like in the second, however, the Knicks were there to respond with a purpose, getting back-to-back threes immediately from Morris to twice turn a two-point lead into a five-point one. Two more threes to close the quarter for the Pacers were made between a Morris jumper, keeping Indiana from holding a lead heading into the fourth, though it was just a point at 72-71.
Turner put the Pacers in the lead for the first time with his fourth three of the half, again having momentum spoiled by Morris and the Knicks, who responded with six straight. Halfway through the quarter, Sabonis split a trip at the line that would have given Indiana a one point lead, only to have Morris kickstart an 8-0 run that bled over to the final two minutes.
Somehow, someway, Sabonis completed a three point play with 36 seconds to draw Indiana to within three. In needing a stop, the Pacers did exactly what they had done all night: surrender a dagger to Morris, giving the Knicks a 92-85 win.
Sabonis led the way for the Pacers with 25 points, but despite finishing 10-15 from the field, he was just 3-7 in the first and fourth quarters, including 5-8 from the line. A lot of shots Sabonis miss, as well as most everyone, simply didn’t go down. Malcolm Brogdon in particular was 4-13 for eight points, missing shots he usually puts in, including 0-5 from deep.
Victor Oladipo showed his rust more tonight than on Wednesday, going a woeful 2-14. He was chucking them up early looking for a rhythm, but really struggled around the rim where he was 1-4, getting to the line just once (going 2-2). He had no hope of scoring when attacking through traffic, which can hopefully work itself back into his game as the season progresses.
Turner was the only other double figure scorer for the Pacers, scoring 12 points on 4-5 shooting. On a night when Indiana’s offense was wildly erratic, especially late, there was no real effort to work the offense through anyone, much less Turner, who had no shots within the three point arc. Part of that is due to T.J. Warren exiting in the third quarter with a head injury, but neither Jeremy Lamb (nine points) nor McDermott (eight) were particularly effective (though McDermott seemed to have been fouled multiple times).
There was also the continued lack of Aaron Holiday, which may simply be a fact of life if the staff refuses to look for offensive answers when things are going wildly wrong, but in T.J. McConnell’s defense, he did offer up some positives early in the fourth with a pair of assists, but was 0-1 with a turnover beyond that.
Oddly (or perhaps due to the opponent), the Pacers very nearly had enough to win this game as is, and may very well have pulled it out had they been a little sharper in the little things. New York’s defense really caught Indiana off guard, but despite shooting 24% in the first and fourth, they had a higher shooting percentage for the game than the Knicks.
However, the Knicks dominated the glass and really controlled the extra effort game, including a 14-12 advantage in points off turnovers. On the glass, however, the difference was considerably more egregious, with the Knicks outrebounding the Pacers 57-34, including 14-4 on the offensive end, no one on the Pacers reaching double figures.
Those rebounds led to 17 extra points for New York, to just four for Indiana. The Pacers also did themselves in at the line, missing eight attempts and finishing 13-21. They allowed the Knicks to win the free throw battle by four. Indiana won the assist game, but at 21-19, had their seventh lowest output of the season, while the low number for New York illustrates just what Morris was doing to Indiana all night as only two of his 10 field goals were off of assists.
The loss is easy to write off from an effort standpoint. After all, it’s hard to expect the Pacers to simply only score 25 points in 24 minutes worth of basketball, but it does add to what has become something of a season long trend of losing to losing teams. Tonight’s loss marks the ninth such loss, which is the second most among Eastern Conference playoff teams.
That may not have much of a bearing against winning teams (where their 9-9 record is fifth best in the East), but it will only make things more difficult for the Pacers in trying to track down a home court series in the first round. This loss will also have one of two outcomes pending Boston and Philadelphia’s current game: they’ll either be in fifth but lose a game to Boston, or back in sixth should Philly win, neither particularly encouraging.
Another tough part of tonight’s loss was that this was the easiest game on the schedule for the Pacers through the All-Star Break, which despite being home heavy, will feature five of their next six against playoff opponents. That begins on Monday, when they face the Dallas Mavericks for the first time this season to wrap up their current three game home stand.