The endless choke continued for the Indiana Pacers, who gagged up another potential win by allowing the New Orleans Pelicans, specifically that of Jrue Holiday, to outscore them 14-2 in Winning Time. The run started on a J.J. Redick bucket, tying the game at 108-108 after the Pacers had pieced together rare buckets on back-to-back possessions.
From there, the bottom fell out. Malcolm Brogdon continued to come up short in clutch moments and Jeremy Lamb, one of Indiana’s two Mr. Reliables, missed a jumper of his own. It was a fitting conclusion for a game that was largely unwatchable, maddening from start to finish, but one the Pacers somehow, someway managed to keep themselves alive for 45 minutes.
Indiana had no rhythm to speak of all night, but benefited from New Orleans, sans Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, having no notable rhythm themselves. However, one area the Pelicans managed to upstage the Pacers in was hustle. Indiana played lost, seemed to let the second night of a back-to-back blues weigh them down, and it worked in New Orleans’s favor, giving them 16 offensive rebounds and 15 three pointers, both huge wins in the box score.
After a brief lead late in the first quarter, the Pacers fell behind for the rest of the half, once by as many as 10. They found a healthy mini-run late in the quarter to cut the lead to four, but out of a Pelicans timeout, surrendered a three to Redick, forcing the Pacers back down by seven. After scoring five straight to make it a two point game, they allowed Lonzo Ball to spoil the run this time, hitting a three to end the half, making it a five point game.
While the Pacers are struggling to get consistent stops across this losing streak, they continue to do unspeakable things to the rebounding game, getting absolutely torched on the offensive glass opening the third. Myles Turner, who had a tremendous defensive game, received no help in his constant rim protection, which resulted in a single possession early in the third in which New Orleans took four shots.
Fortunately, they came up empty on the possession, but despite forcing 10 straight misses to start the fourth, sinking New Orleans under 40% shooting for the first time in the game, they still trailed by two after coughing up the ball three times in the first three minutes. The Pacers finally, finally, broke through near the midway point of the quarter, but each lead, both by Domantas Sabonis, were immediately responded to on the other new end by New Orleans.
Nicolo Melli tied the game with a triple at 67-67 and after a Pelicans stop, did the same thing again, putting New Orleans back in the lead. The Pacers jumped back on top thanks to their ability to get to the line, but once up by two, gave up a three to Josh Hart, then one to Holiday, then another to Frank Jackson for good measures, completely undermining any and every bit of progress the Pacers had made in the quarter.
Sisyphus, green with envy, saw T.J. Warren tie the game at 85-85, only to force the Pacers to climb back up the hill when they allowed a three point play by Holiday to end the quarter. The Pelicans led 88-85 after three, a lead they held in large part because the Pacers had surrendered 10 points to the Pelicans in end of quarter buckets. Whether tied or down two, the same result befell the Pacers time and time again.
Both teams would go back and forth throughout the fourth, neither capturing any sense of momentum. That is, until the Pacers appeared to finally brea kthrough, scoring five straight to take a 103-99 lead, their largest of the game. Holiday and the Pelicans responded, however, hitting a timely three, followed by back-to-back hero ball possessions by T.J. McConnell.
Down one and out of a much needed timeout, the Pacers turned the ball over in a maybe a foul, maybe a travel sort of situation, giving up a bucket to Derrick Favors inside to put them down three. Turner hit a big time three in response and after a rare stop (needing to force two stops in the possession), Lamb pulled up for a jumper, putting the Pacers on top 108-106.
The lead couldn’t be sustained for a single possession, however, as Redick scored, kicking off the 14-2 run that would drop the Pacers into the loss column for the fifth straight time. The Pacers shot 53% for the game, but ended with the same number of field goals thanks to allowing 16 offensive rebounds. New Orleans scored 11 off those misses, while Indiana had just two points off of of two offensive boards.
Making the same amount of shots benefited New Orleans directly in their ability to hit three pointers, making 15-38, while the Pacers made just nine, a six point difference made seven by a one point free throw edge in favor of the Pelicans. The Pacers outshot the Pelicans 27-25 the line, but missed seven, including four alone from Warren, who still led the Pacers with 26.
The return of Warren proved a nice boost for the offense, as did Lamb, who had 22. The duo shot 18-25 from the floor for 48 points, bringing the rest of the team in at a surprisingly high 44.8% shooting. No one else outside of Sabonis shot over 50%, and he was largely ineffective with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Brogdon shot 6-14 tonight, including 1-3 in the fourth quarter (minus a garbage time three). His struggles in the clutch have become concerning after he had lifted the Pacers to numerous late game wins upon his return in early January. His struggles have compounded Indiana’s inability to win games lately. In this five game losing streak, they have been outscored 55-27 in the final three minutes of games.
Off the bench, the Pacers had limited production from both Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott, with the pair going 2-9 from three point range. They did combine for 16 points, but against the 23 of Redick, offered little in response to the sharpshooter. The struggles of Brogdon also seem to force Nate McMillan to ride out McConnell’s wave of positive play beyond its value, as the backup point scored six in 17 minutes, including a lot of hero ball in the fourth and a perplexing isolation play to end the first quarter with a fizzle.
The Pacers, playing burnt out, are in desperate need of the All-Star Break, but will have to ride out one more week, and two more games before getting there. Normally, it’d be customary to say something along the lines of, “at least both games are at home,” but the Pacers are currently 3-6 at home in their last nine, including four of their five losses in this losing streak.
The competition won’t get any easy for the Pacers heading into the break either, starting with the Brooklyn Nets on Monday and the league-best Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. Getting two wins may be a tall order, but so too may be getting a single win. With a full roster on hand for Monday (at least for now), maybe they can start digging up some positives at the break.