After their game Saturday against Phoenix was postponed, the Indiana Pacers entered their getaway game against the Los Angeles Clippers rested, but short-handed. Following yesterday’s surprising news about Caris LeVert’s kidney that will leave him sidelined for an indefinite amount of time, the Pacers were also left without their defensive anchor Myles Turner with a hand injury suffered against Portland.
Those absences forced Doug McDermott into the starting lineup, where propping he Pacers up early with scorching three point shooting. McDermott scored 15 on 6-6 shooting in the first quarter, keepings the Pacers in the game until Los Angeles closed the quarter on a 12-2 run.
The Clippers would push that lead up to 18 halfway through the second, when Domantas Sabonis took charge with McDermott, closing the gap to within three late. LA responded with five straight to push the lead back to eight, which set up Sabonis to salvage the run with a wild layup to beat the halftime buzzer.
Indiana came out strong out of the half, scoring six straight to bring the deficit to two at 63-61. Unfortunately, that would be the high water mark for them in the second half, as the Clippers abruptly shut the door with eight straight points. From there, it was all Clippers all the time, outscoring Indiana 39-20 in the quarter and withstanding a brief 6-0 Pacers run to start the fourth to close out the win.
The Pacers picked their poison in this one, running extended triangle and two defense against Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, guarding them man-to-man, but running a zone outside of that, surrendering a staggering amount of open threes to Los Angeles, many of which they had no trouble hitting.
Indiana was able to minimize this in the first half thanks to the play of McDermott and Justin Holiday, but the floodgates opened in the third when the Clippers hit eight threes to double their total for the game at that point. For the game, the Clippers had eight extra threes, which was far too much of a gap for this Pacers team to overcome.
Without Turner, the Pacers were also quite susceptible with their interior defense. While LA finished with 56, it was their percentage that really did the damager. They shot over 80% in or around the restricted area in the first three quarters, an unsustainable number defensively for a team that might hope to actually win a game.
The shortened lineup also cut deep into Indiana’s depth, taking away any scoring threat off the bench with Aaron Holiday scoring just two on the night. Goga Bitadze made his season debut tonight, and despite looking mostly out of sync in his first half, he had the totality of Indiana’s bench points until the start of the fourth with two while the Clippers enjoyed three double figure scorers off the bench.
Bitadze did look much better in his garbage time run in the fourth, finishing with five points, three steals, and the team’s only block. The extended bench running time in the fourth didn’t provide much of note, however, with Brian Bowen III the only player to make a shot, an and-one, between he, Jalen Lecque (2-2 FTs), Kelan Martin, and Cassius Stanely.
McDermott did play extremely well in the starting lineup, however, leading the team with 23 points, hitting 5-7 from three point range. Sabonis had a solid outing overall with 19 points and 14 rebounds, dishing six assists, including this beauty to McDermott between his legs. Malcolm Brogdon also finished in double figures with 16 points and eight assists.
DOUG. CAN'T. MISS.— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 18, 2021
13 PTS (5-5 FG) pic.twitter.com/PWTFM9NSiM
While the outcome of this game isn’t a surprise, the final score may be. This is the first double figure loss of the season for the Pacers and they made up for in a big way by getting waxed by 33. Given everything that unfolded during the trip, from postponed games to player trades, the Pacers will return home with a respectable 2-2 record.
Upon returning to Indianapolis, the Pacers will get an extra day’s rest before hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. Turner’s availability at this point is not known.