The Indiana Pacers lost again. After leading by four heading into the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, the Pacers choked away another potential win, getting outscored by the Brooklyn Nets 13-8. The game went back-and-forth in those final minutes, with Domantas Sabonis putting the Pacers on top 105-104 with 10 seconds on the clock, but it was Spencer Dinwiddie that had the last laugh, pulling up for a jumper to give Brooklyn the lead with three seconds remaining.
On the final play, the Pacers inbounded the ball quickly to Victor Oladipo, but Brooklyn took their foul to give immediately. What followed was a textbook example of Indiana’s poor inbounding abilities: a frenzied Malcolm Brogdon passed in to Sabonis, got the ball back as time wound down, and heaved up a prayer in a double team that had no chance of being answered.
The end result: a sixth straight loss.
The game for the most part followed the exact same script as a bulk of this losing streak. Poor rebounding led to a number of extra possessions for the Nets. That helped them nurse a one to three possession lead nearly the entire first three quarters. The Pacers, to their credit, broke out of their monotony late in the third, as the bench led them to a 19-8 run to finish out the quarter, taking a lead into the fourth after a nice Doug McDermott four point play.
Indiana, with the lead, struggled to build upon it, scoring just four points across the middle four and a half minutes of the fourth. Their ability to get just enough from the defensive end helped them maintain the lead, however, but it never got higher than six, which ended up costing them the game.
The Pacers continue to struggle big time from beyond the arc, going just 7-30 from deep. McDermott, along with Oladipo and Myles Turner each had two, which left the rest of the team at 1-14. They were also dominated on the glass, getting outrebounded by 13, including 14-6 on the offensive end. That inability to get rebounds came home to roost in the fourth when the Nets scored seven second chance points in the quarter.
To add insult to injury, the Pacers were also outscored 24-8 at the free throw line, which combined with their 12-7 three pointer deficit, just obliterated their margin for error. The things Indiana did well; limiting turnovers and scoring off of them, weren’t enough to escape with a much needed win.
Though the Pacers would find some momentum in the late stages of the third quarter thanks to the bench, their play up to that point continued the wildly uninspired effort they have had throughout this streak. When a 19-8 run, the best stretch in this homestand, can only grant a three point lead, there are issues within the foundation of their play.
Some of that may simply be exhaustion. One thing the Pacers aren’t right now is sharp. Yet, despite all of that, they have found themselves in each of these games late, which suggests they may not be far off from getting things turned around, at least that’s the hope.
Part of the struggle is unquestionably the adjustment of Oladipo’s return. Oladipo was again near the top of the team’s field goal attempts despite shooting 5-14, more than T.J. Warren, who scored seven extra points (19-12). His two for one three point attempt with 37 seconds left left too much time on the clock, allowing the Nets themselves to go two for one, ultimately setting up the Dinwiddie game winner.
Beyond Oladipo, Brogdon’s struggles are also proving to be detrimental to the team’s success right now. He scored just six points, also taking more shots than Turner, who had 15. Turner was a big boost to the team’s offense in the first half and Sabonis had his way inside all night, scoring 23 points. The balance of the starting lineup (all between 10-15 shots) didn’t help Indiana tonight.
The Pacers still have one more game before the All-Star Break (mercifully), but will still face their toughest challenge in this entire stretch, hosting the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. That’s the last opponent the Pacers should want to face, but considering three of these losses have come to teams with below .500 records, it doesn’t appear to matter much who the opposition is.