There continue to be very few bright spots for the Indiana Pacers as their losing streak extends to four games. Losing at home to a Miami Heat team without both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo might seem like the worst loss of the season, but there’s no telling what the next game will bring, so let’s try and not let the “worst loss” tally lose all meaning.
The loss to Denver back in November did sort of feel like a barometer in terms of what one would define as the “worst loss” of the season for the Pacers, in part because of the absence of Nikola Jokic, but mostly due to the sheer feeling of hopelessness that came out of it. It was also a game they almost won, which begs the question: What if that hopelessness remained, but they didn’t almost win? Where does that put the Pacers then?
The Heat, having come off two bad losses themselves at home, stormed out of the gate, hitting seven threes in the first quarter, putting the Pacers behind by double figures. Despite the difference on the scoreboard, Indiana actually shot better than Miami from the floor, but the gap in three point shots forced them to play catchup all night.
Indiana chipped away at the lead throughout the second quarter, getting an excellent first half from Caris LeVert to cut the lead to four with 90 seconds left. Three misses to end the half kept the Pacers from drawing any closer, so too did Gabe Vincent’s quarter ending three, putting the Heat up seven and preventing Indiana from winning the quarter.
The Pacers had their opportunities in the third, thrice cutting the lead to three only to allow a Miami triple as a response. Miami would close out the quarter on an 11-6 run, pushing their lead into double figures heading into the fourth, where they would go up by as many 18 and more or less coast to the win despite some testiness between the two teams that artificially extended the game well beyond its expiration.
Indiana’s second half struggles were on full display against the Miami defense, forcing tough shots that, shockingly, didn’t have much of a chance of going in. The Pacers shot 54% in the first half, but just north of 30% in the second half with a whole lot of threes going up and very, very few going in.
The Heat, meanwhile, never cooled off, going 16-34 from deep and 53% overall. Miami’s responses were locked and loaded all night, not only getting big time contributions from Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson, but Vincent and Omer Yurtseven off the bench, scoring 24 combined points off the bench. Indiana’s bench totaled 27, 14 of those coming from Domantas Sabonis, who missed the tip tending to a family matter, thus being a substitute tonight.
LeVert led the way with 27 points and Myles Turner had a big third quarter to finish with 20. Chris Duarte (15) and Malcolm Brogdon (14) each reached double figures, giving Indiana’s (expected) starters a balanced night overall. The lack of Justin Holiday and T.J. McConnell was felt off the bench, with Oshae Brissett bringing the most fight, but in also leading the second unit with five total points, the tangibles simply weren’t there for the second unit.
Though the Heat landed the first punch, the Pacers never really swung back. The few moments in the game where it felt like things may turn in Indiana’s favor, the Heat were right there to stop it each and every time. That precision really highlighted Indiana’s lack of urgency and execution, ultimately giving Miami the second best shooting night for a Pacers opponent.
Though three point shooting went a long way in making up the difference on the scoreboard, tonight’s game wasn’t without its oddities. The Pacers outscored Miami from the free throw line 25-11, but still were barely able to make a dent due to eight misses as well. They also outscored the Heat 17-1 in fast break points while losing points off turnovers 18-16 for good measure.
Tonight’s loss drops Indiana to 6-6 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Since returning home for what was set to be nine of 10 and a chance to make up some ground from their slow start on the year, the Pacers are 1-4 at home (1-5 overall) and it sure feels like it’s all slipping away rather quickly.
The Pacers will have an extra day off for just the second time this season, giving them an extra day to try and find something before tipping off against the Washington Wizards on Monday.