Late game execution came up short for the Indiana Pacers once again as the Portland Trail Blazers slipped past Indiana to steal a win at home. The Pacers fought all the way back from an awful start to take what appeared like a commanding nine-point lead with under five minutes remaining, but all it took was back-to-back Portland threes to flip the momentum entirely.
The Blazers closed out the game on an 18-5 run to sneak past the Pacers, snapping Indiana’s two-game winning streak. Though the Pacers came alive in the second half, Portland controlled the game from the tip, scoring the first eight and going up by as many as 13 in the first. The lead would extend as high as 16 in the second quarter, but to the Pacers’ credit, they closed both quarters on a high note, cutting the double figure deficit to just two possessions.
The third quarter went in Indiana’s favor, taking their first lead of the game with about seven minutes remaining in the third. Unfortunately, one of Indiana’s biggest struggles was keeping Portland from hitting a devastating three in response to their pushes. Where Indiana did it to New York on Wednesday, the Trail Blazers did the same, with razor precision.
Indiana led after three and got a big fourth quarter from Myles Turner to help them push their lead up to nine. From there, however, it just went the opposite direction. Portland scored the next 12 and though Indiana appeared to stem the tide on their next two scores, death, taxes, and Robert Covington threes put the cap on an otherwise impressive Indiana performance.
The Pacers got news heading into the game that they’d be without Malcolm Brogdon, who was missing tonight’s game with non-COVID illness and his absence was felt throughout the first half. The Indiana offense was a mess. Three point shots went up, few went in, and there was just no rhythm at all.
At halftime, no starter had reached double figures, and T.J. McConnell, perhaps the most effective of the starters in the opening quarters had a wildly uncharacteristic zero assists. Somehow, the Pacers trailed by only six at halftime. The three point shooting was really bad, sure, but Justin Holiday (four makes) and Kelan Martin (two) salvaged the wreck that was the first half.
That allowed enough time for the starting lineup to find their legs, with McConnell finishing the night with 19. He led the way for the Pacers, shooting 8-13, including an impressive 3-4 from three point range. Caris LeVert floated up the most shots, but struggled from the floor at 6-21. His makes were big, but both guys had some tough misses down the stretch when Indiana needed a boost. Chris Duarte had his first single digit game as a pro, scoring nine. He had seven of those in the second half, inching Indiana back, into a tie, or in building a lead on each of his makes.
Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner each brought some life to the game in the second half. Turner finished with 16, overcoming a dreadful start to hit three triples for the game, sending away Norman Powell in the fourth and scoring on the other end to help Indiana in their quest to go up nine on a 15-2 run.
Sabonis meanwhile had 15 points and 12 boards, shooting 4-6 from the floor in the second half. He and Turner were a combined 9-12 in the second half, taking advantage of switches off of Jusuf Nurkic to dominate the game inside, outscoring Portland 52-36 in the paint. However, despite a massive influx of threes in the first half, the lacks of makes allowed Portland to top Indiana 17-14 in makes. Their 13-6 free throw advantage didn’t hurt, erasing Indiana’s interior advantages.
All things considered, this wasn’t a terrible loss though their inability to capitalize on a shockingly bad night from Damian Lillard (four points on 2-13 shooting) is enough to haunt any scouting report. The real problem in this loss is that it drops Indiana to 3-7 and keeps them winless on the road (0-5). It also keeps them winless in close games (0-5 in single digit games).
It also makes them 0-1 on this four game West Coast trip, putting heavier emphasis on picking up a win against the Sacramento Kings in a Daylights Savings Time matinee on Sunday.