If it’s an adjustment period working Victor Oladipo into the lineup, the adjustment period claimed another loss for the Indiana Pacers, dropping in frustrating fashion to the Dallas Mavericks. Very little seemed to go right for the Pacers at any point tonight, and even the moments where it did, it wasn’t good enough to put a stamp on the game.
The end result was one where Indiana was beaten up on the glass, at the line, from three point line, and entirely by Kristaps Porzingis, who led the way for all scorers with 38 easy points, outscoring (and outshooting) the Pacers at the line, a perfect 12-12 to Indiana’s paltry 8-11.
The Pacers led 16-14 when Porizingis put the Mavericks on top with back-to-back threes. Trailing by three heading into the second, the Pacers got some life from their second unit, going ahead by five on a 7-0 run, pushing their lead as high as eight halfway through the quarter. That lead would quickly dwindle, however, with back-to-back threes again by Porzingis cutting the lead to four.
Any time the Pacers had an opportunity to push the lead out beyond six or eight points, it was Dallas there to respond, with a three pointer or a timely trip to the line, sometimes both. Indiana didn’t struggle to score in the second quarter, but they weren’t scoring from three point range either. Trading two for three took a toll on their lead at the half, a flimsy 55-53 advantage.
Dallas outscored the Pacers 14-6 to open the third, putting them up six. Indiana responded, cutting six point deficit to one, but Porzingis, this time joined by Delon Wright, hit back-to-back threes to push the lead to five, quickly going to eight on a Dorian Finney-Smith three. Though Indiana would appear to cut into the lead, they continued trading two for three, keeping the deficit at eight before Oladipo pulled up for a deep three to end the third, his lone offensive highlight of the night.
In the fourth, it was really much of the same. The Pacers cut the lead to three or four, immediately surrendering a three pointer that ultimately put them into the loss column for the second straight game.
For the game, Dallas shot 18-45 from three point range, taking full advantage of their green light to pile on the Pacers again and again and again. The Pacers meanwhile shot just north of 20% at a woeful 7-34. This 1-2 homestand, ironically salvaged by a three pointer, ends with Indiana shooting 25.9% from three point range. That’s compounded by Oladipo’s return, as he’s shot 3-21 from deep in his first three games back.
As a whole, Oladipo’s return has done more harm than good for the Pacers, though it’s hard not to expect that would have happen. Oladipo, averaging 7.7 PTS on 20.5% shooting, has really zapped the flow of the offense as both units continue to try and find a way to make him work within the team, while Oladipo himself is trying to make it work for himself.
It doesn’t help matters much that help around him has slid backwards since his return. Malcolm Brogdon in particular has seen his own shot go on hiatus since returning from his concussion, shooting 10-30 the last two games, including 2-12 from three point range. Doug McDermott, who led the bench with 11 points, finished these last three games just 1-11 from deep, after making 22 threes in the previous five.
It’s not all bad with Oladipo, however, as any lingering questions about his overall health are being answered with his effort on the defensive end. After three games, he’s one off the team leader in charges taken (really?). Defensively, the Pacers actually didn’t do too bad(?). They held Dallas to 41.9% shooting, though half of those shots being threes will inevitably drag down the percentage.
They did pick up six blocks as a team, led by Myles Turner with three. Turner, scoring 11 points, did about as good a job as possible against a really in-the-zone Porzingis. Indiana had seven steals and won the turnover battle with ease at 12-4. This led to 15 fast break points for the Pacers. Unfortunately, the inability to finish possessions did a number on Indiana’s chances of winning, giving up 12 offensive rebounds, many of the long rebound variety. That led to 17 extra points for the Mavericks, including two threes and a three shot foul.
Domantas Sabonis led the way for the Pacers with 26 points. He had 12 rebounds and nine assists, both teams highs, but even at 11-18 shooting, he highlighted another common problem Indiana had tonight; finishing at the rim. Sabonis missed three shots in the paint in the fourth quarter, bringing Indiana’s second half total to 11 misses around the basket, a devastating blow in a game of devastating blows.
The Pacers hold on to the fifth seed by virtue of Philadelphia’s own struggles of late, but are now 3.5 games behind Miami and Boston for home court. Though these first three games of Oladipo’s return have felt similar to the first three games of the season for the Pacers, where the same lack of familiarity manifested itself into three straight losses, Indiana won’t be granted the same ease of schedule to help climb out of this early hole, facing the Toronto Raptors in a home-and-home series starting on Wednesday in Ontario.