Fresh off their latest loss in which they outplayed their opponent for 46 minutes, the Indiana Pacers again saw all of their hard work dissipate when the light was as its brightest. Up five with 1:30 left in the game, the Pacers gave up seven straight points to the Golden State Warriors, resulting in a loss and dropping them to 1-9 on the year in games decided by four points or less.
It’s been an excruciating journey for a Pacers team that continues to be at their most inventive when it comes to losing at the end of games and tonight was no exception. After Domantas Sabonis pushed Indiana ahead 100-95, Stephen Curry came up with his fifth three of the night as a response. On the next possession he drove to the basket and scored, tying the game. The possession after that? His miss bounced high enough off the rim to allow Golden State a rebound opportunity, resulting in an unlikely putback from Kevon Looney to give the Warriors the 102-100 advantage.
To make matters worse, Caris LeVert stumbled on Indiana’s final possession, turning it over with 2.2 seconds on the clock, snapping Indiana’s three game winning streak without even getting a shot at the basket. Kevin Pritchard caught a lot of heat the past couple of days for saying the Pacers are still looking to “manufacture a real star,” and while he’s justifiably apologized for the wording of the quote, the sentiment rang through loud clear as the Pacers lost again to a team that undoubtedly has a “real star.”
Sabonis, Indiana’s two-time All-Star and Eastern Conference Player of the Week, did have a fantastic outing however, leading all scorers with 30 points and 11 rebounds, scoring Indiana’s final points of the night. While perhaps treating Sabonis as a “real star” in this situation may help Indiana, there wasn’t anything particularly egregious in their final possessions, it simply came down to a complete lack of execution.
Indiana’s first of two misses came from Myles Turner, who on the night was 1-10 and 0-6 from three. He missed three attempts in the fourth quarter, all good looks that simply refused to go down. The Pacers had a few of those in the fourth, regrettably. Their second miss was by Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana’s second leading scorer on the night with 23.
While Brogdon struggled from three point range (1-3), he was effective inside the arc at 6-10 prior to the final jumper that didn’t find its way through the net. LeVert’s turnover came with him looking for any kind of respectable look, doing a bit too much as the ball slipped out of his hands. He was having a night leading up to that, however, scoring 19 and hitting three triples in the third as part of his 11 point quarter.
All of that is to say, the Pacers played really well up until the final minute of the game. They defended at a high level (four blocks by Turner) and routinely built their lead up to around eight points all night. The Warriors, however, came back each time, knocking off just enough to keep the Pacers from getting too comfortable, lurking just enough to strike in the closing seconds.
That defensive activity forced the Warriors into 18 turnovers leading to 19 Pacer points. Oshae Brissett had five steals alone, keeping Indiana’s energy in high gear all night. That ability to force turnovers carried over to their play inside, scoring 52 points in the paint and getting to the line 31 times.
Within that ability to get to the line came eight crucial misses, including a pair of blank trips from Sabonis and Brogdon. The Warriors came away with 60 points in the paint, shooting 50% on the night despite going just 8-30 from three point range. The Pacers were a notch worse at 7-30, making up the difference.
The lack of late-game execution drops the Pacers to 3-3 to finish off their season long homestand. They’ll make a quick trip up to Wisconsin on Wednesday to face the Milwaukee Bucks, a team they have absolutely not come close to almost beating, but rather, have suffered two of their three double digit losses on the season to.