Against the 27th ranked defense of the Brooklyn Nets, the Indiana Pacers were completely befuddled, throwing out not only the worst first half of the season, but one of the worst halves in recent Pacers memory. The Pacers scored 30 first half points, shooting 25.6% and that’s being kind.
The Indiana offense was a complete mess for the entire first half. The Brooklyn defense completely removed any semblance of offensive rhythm for the Pacers, forcing them not only into bad shots, but multiple shot clock violations. When Domantas Sabonis wasn’t able to attack DeAndre Jordan early, that seemed to throw the entire game plan out of the window.
The led to some incredibly ugly basketball early from not only the Pacers, but also the Nets, also struggling to find any any kind of offensive rhythm. Their ability to get to the line helped ease them into the game, however, leading to 14 free throw attempts in the first quarter, putting them up nine heading into the second.
The Pacers defense actually did a pretty good job limiting the effectiveness of Brooklyn’s offense even into the second quarter despite the foul calls constantly putting them at the line. Aaron Holiday hit a three with 8:39 to bring Indiana to within seven down 32-25, when the wheels fell off on Indiana’s night.
The Nets scored the next 15, holding the Pacers scoreless for almost four minutes, eventually without a basket for over five. By the time Sabonis scored with three minutes in the half, the Pacers were trailing 51-29, only managing to score a single point more before the much needed break, down 62-30.
In the first half, Indiana was 11-43 from the field and were outrebounded 32-16. The rebounding may have been a bit inflated due to the sheer number of misses the Pacers had, but they were stilll outscored in the paint 26-14 all while being outshot 26-8 at the free throw line, 22-4 in makes.
With nowhere to go but up, the Pacers actually went backwards to start the third, falling behind 69-33 on a Kyrie Irving technical free throw, Myles Turner understandably frustrated at the lack of trips to the line the Pacers had gotten. That Irving free throw is notable not just because it put Brooklyn on top for a game high 36, but it was the lone attempt of the quarter for the Nets as a team.
Though Indiana themselves didn’t get to the line in the third, they were able to finally start making shots, forcing the Nets to play defense instead of just defending bad shots, and the comeback was on. The Pacers scored eight straight as a response to the technical foul, then 13 straight three minutes later, cutting the lead to 14 with 1:17 left.
Brooklyn had a response to close the quarter, however, with James Harden putting in the final four as part of a 6-0 Nets run that ballooned the lead back to 20. Indiana failed to shrink the lead for five minutes in part due to poor rebounding and second chance three point shots, but would again get it back down to 14 on back-to-back threes from Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Holiday with nearly half the quarter remaining.
At that point, Irving simply willed his way to the free throw line, scoring six straight to help seal the win for the Nets, finishing with 35 points on 17-17 free throws, outscoring the Pacers as a team by 10 at the line. Harden had 10 himself, also outscoring the Pacers as a team at the line for good measure.
Indiana outscored the Nets 64-42 in the second half, a really solid response after such a dreadful first half, but unlike the comeback attempt against New Orleans, Indiana had dug themselves far too big of a hole in the first half to make a strong half enough, especially when the strong half had to be perfect, especially in terms of some killer second chance points they allowed.
Individually, there wasn’t much there to note. Sabonis and Brogdon each finished in double figures with 18 & 15, but needed 37 attempts to get there, shooting just 32.4% as a duo. Also, Jeremy Lamb couldn’t boost the offense, scoring just three points as he continues to look like a bad fit with the starters. He was also a real liability on defense in the second half, being a big part in why Brooklyn was able to close the third on a 6-0 run.
Doug McDermott continues to attack the basket with a purpose, scoring 12 points on 5-10 shooting, all of his makes coming at the rim. T.J. McConnell provided a nice boost in the second half, scoring a season high 13 with seven rebounds and four assists. J. Holiday had 12 with the starters, doing all of his damage from beyond the arc, going 4-7. The Pacers as a team finished a solid 15-38, just shy of 40%.
The Pacers dropped their fourth straight in this one, but it was really the kind of game that was more about the Nets than the Pacers. Indiana was extraordinarily bad in the first half, yes, but Brooklyn themselves came out with a purpose after suffering their third straight loss to Detroit last night in embarrassing fashion.
To some degree, this was a bad night for Indiana to play the Nets (even without Kevin Durant), but there was still no excuse for them to hammer out such a putrid 24 minutes of basketball especially on extra rest vs. Brooklyn’s back-to-back. Their defense was notable in the Utah loss and their shooting nearly dragged them to a win over New Orleans, but their play has been completely underwhelming in this losing streak, dropping them to 1-6 in their last seven games.
The bad news for the Pacers is that their road trip continues tomorrow night, but the good news is is that the schedule lightens up after a very tough stretch of games Indiana just wrapped up. It will be a chance for them to build on this second half, but one half of basketball hasn’t helped Indiana win a game in a week, so it will take a much better all-around effort to dig them out of their 12-13 record.
Their opponent on the back-to-back will be the 6-18 Detroit Pistons, entering the game after trouncing these same Brooklyn Nets.