Familiarity in losses was a common theme for the Indiana Pacers last season, a trend that has quite unfortunately carried over into this new year. Against Charlotte on Wednesday, the Pacers (probably) did enough to pick up the win, but a 24-0 run proved too much to overcome.
Tonight against the Washington Wizards, it wasn’t a 24-0 run, but rather two double digit runs totaling up to 27 total points in favor of the Wizards. The 13-0 and 14-0 runs both did the job erasing a steady three possession lead for the Pacers in the second quarter and putting them down 12 late in the third.
Twice able to overcome those stretches, Indiana was still forced to contend with blistering shooting from the Wizards, makers of 19 threes, including an 11-17 night from deep between their two leading scorers Spencer Didwiddie and Kyle Kuzma, totaling for 60 points and what felt like countless big time buckets throughout the night.
Indiana, also struggling on the defensive end, finally clamped down in the fourth quarter. Entering down 10, they had chipped away at the lead through the first six minutes then took the lead with 4:20 remaining in the quarter. The Malcolm Brogdon make was part of a 10-0 Pacers run that put them ahead by five heading into the final two and a half minutes, ticking as high as six on a late Chris Duarte three.
Dinwiddie meanwhile had ice in his veins, scoring eight in the final 2:17 to completely erase Indiana’s six point lead, tying the game at 123-123 at the end of regulation. The Pacers stormed out of the gate in overtime, scoring the first six to once again recreate their biggest second half lead.
A rare three second violation on the Pacers, a Montrezl Harrell dunk, and a...Dinwiddie three tied it up in a minute flat. Domantas Sabonis would break the tie on the other end, but that would be the last gasp of (winnable) points for Indiana, proceeding to give up five straight, including a clutch Davis Bertans three, his fourth, to put them up by three.
During this stretch of offensive struggles, both Sabonis and Brogdon were called for tough offensive fouls, one erasing a Brogdon three that would’ve put them up five, and the other coming on a usual play-on type of call. The breaks didn’t go Indiana’s way late just as the shots didn’t when they got to take them.
In the closing seconds, Kuzma would split a trip at the line, clinching a four-point advantage with 6.7 seconds left. Brogdon would hit a three with a second left, but the clock wrapped it up, dropping the Pacers into their second straight one-point loss at 135-134.
The loss felt familiar, so too did the struggles. Against Charlotte, Indiana was waxed on points off turnovers, a stat they so graciously reenacted tonight. The Pacers lost a fairly clean turnover battle 12-9 tonight, but it was the points off turnovers that broke things wide open, losing 26-10. They also had just five fast break points, continuing to struggle in manufacturing easy points.
The bench tonight, expanded to a 10-man rotation for at least a couple of minutes, had a nice start, with Jeremy Lamb scoring seven in the opening quarter as the second unit matched their 11-point total in the first quarter alone. That bright spot turned out to be fool’s gold, however, as the bench wrapped up with just 18 points total, nine each between Lamb and T.J. McConnell. The Wizards, meanwhile, had 53, bolstering their shorthanded roster tonight.
Beyond struggles in scoring, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of “role” as far as these guys go. Lamb provided a nice spark early, but still struggled defensively while McConnell playing more off the ball has provided nothing of note for the team, especially in the fourth quarter, when in replacing McConnell, was granted a pair of much-needed jumper attempts that failed to go.
Oshae Brissett and Brad Wanamaker made their regular season debuts, but neither provided much of anything, each going scoreless on 0-1 shooting. Torrey Craig meanwhile also went scoreless in 12 minutes with a block, board, and assist to his name. This wasn’t helped by Justin Holiday appearing to reaggravate his ankle injury in the first half, as he played just 20 minutes, none after the halfway mark of the third.
This put everything on Indiana’s top four guys, to where ever a career night from Myles Turner wasn’t enough to lift them to the win. Turner scored the first seven of the night for the Pacers, 16 in the first quarter, 24 in the first half, and finished the night with a career best 40 points.
It was an absolute knockout performance from Turner, shooting 15-22 on 5-9 from three and eight free throw attempts. He completed a double double with 10 boards (five on the offensive end, of Indiana’s seven total) and had three blocks for good measure. It was a phenomenal bounceback after foul trouble limited him on Wednesday.
He got plenty of help from both Sabonis and Brogdon, each finishing with 28 points, both above 50% shooting and nearing triple doubles as well (Sabonis 9r/7a and Brogdon 8r/8a). Unfortunately, Duarte, despite being the fourth double figure scorer with 15, had one too many rookie moments. It’s not his fault of course, simply the frustrating reality that what Indiana needs right now is him playing like the seasoned veteran he isn’t yet, but he’s continuing to flash positive signs, including buzzer beaters in the first half.
The Pacers dropping to 0-2 on the road despite another mostly positive performance is a bit of a cruel joke, but that’s nothing on the joke of having to play the Miami Heat tomorrow night in Indiana’s home opener. The Heat, fresh off of decimating Milwaukee, have all the tools of a team that could just completely rip through their first 20 or so games like a tornado, putting the Pacers right square in the middle of the path simply trying to pick up their first win.