The fourth quarter collapses don’t stop coming for the Indiana Pacers, adding another notch with an infuriating loss to the Miami Heat. The Pacers held a lead much of the night, but a scoring drought of six minutes and eight seconds in the fourth quarter was all the time the Heat needed to close out the win.
The Pacers not only led for nearly the entire game, but were firmly in control for large portions of it. Hot shooting helped them lead by five after one, a lead that was pushed into double figures thanks to the second unit locking down Miami’s struggling bench unit.
Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last too long, as a 14-point lead late in the second was almost completely erased by an energized Heat run, closing the half 13-1 to make it a two-point game at the break. The Pacers missed six shots to close the half, turning the ball over three times, a delicious precursor to their disastrous fourth quarter showing.
Caris LeVert carried over his poor play against Washington with another terrible half to open tonight, but came alive to start the third to spark the Pacers. He hit two layups, kickstarting a 13-0 Pacers run that put them up 15 with just under nine minutes left in the third.
Out of a Miami timeout, however, Jimmy Butler led the charge, helping the Heat to a 11-0 run as a response to make it a four-point game in three minutes. With scoring at such a premium all night, the Pacers did a poor job limiting the crucial Heat runs, allowing Miami to finish off the quarter with five points from Tyler Herro to keep the Indiana lead at just two.
Late in the third, Domantas Sabonis came down awkwardly on his knee, instantly limping off the floor and collapsing in the tunnel. He would eventually return to the bench with a left knee contusion, as T.J. McConnell helped push the Pacers to a six-point lead with 9:15 remaining. Sabonis returned to the game, spelling Goga Bitadze who had just picked up his fifth foul.
With Bitadze and Myles Turner each picking up five and the Pacers being short Jeremy Lamb, Nate Bjorkgren ran out of a lineup featuring Sabonis and Aaron Holiday, the latter committing a costly turnover and hesitating a bit too long on a three, giving enough room for Duncan Robinson to throw in two killer threes that gave Miami their first lead of the second half at 79-78.
The Pacers and Heat traded baskets when a LeVert dunk gave Indiana an 82-81 lead at the 6:49 in the fourth. Sabonis stole the ball from Andre Iguodala, but was whistled for an offensive foul in the post. The Pacers challenged the call, getting it overturned. At that moment, it appeared Indiana might have some life, but the Heat forced LeVert into a deep, late shot clock three that wasn’t so much as a legitimate attempt as it was a shot put.
The miss led to a Butler basket and a bad pass from Doug McDermott also led to a Butler basket, putting the Heat up three. The Pacers wouldn’t challenge again, missing eight shots in their six minute scoring drought, giving the Heat a seven-point lead with 1:09 remaining in the game.
With scoring at such a premium tonight for both teams, Miami’s biggest advantage came at the free throw line, where they outscored Indiana 18-8. The Pacers shot just 12 attempts for the game, missing four. The free throws helped keep both Butler and Bam Adebayo involved when neither player had a field goal in the first half, combining for 14 at the line. Indiana also had nine extra fouls in the game, for what it’s worth.
Myles Turner led the way for the Pacers with 15 points, going 6-9 with a trio of threes, but foul trouble limited him in the second half. While Turner was the catalyst for Indiana’s defense, not enough minutes were allotted to Bitadze as a placeholder. Bitadze’s defense also helped keep Miami away from the rim, but he was held to just 11 minutes with five fouls.
That put extra work on Sabonis, who wasn’t getting much in the way of offense, scoring just nine. He did rebound well, pulling in 14 to help the Pacers actually win a rebounding battle, but much like the loss to Washington, the distribution of offense just wasn’t where it needed to be in this particular game.
Malcolm Brogdon came crashing down offensively after some excellent shooting recently, going 2-12 with seven points, going 1-8 from three. Justin Holiday was also 1-8 from three, while Edmond Sumner and A. Holiday combined for 2-9 shooting. McDermott’s return was a nice shot in the arm for the Pacers, with him scoring 14 on 5-6 shooting with four threes.
LeVert also had 14 with six assists and four steals, but it’s a bit of a shock any of those numbers got there, almost as much as him having just three turnovers. Miami’s double teams really caused LeVert to struggle, resulting in some head-scratching shots and passes that felt more like wasted possessions than actual offensive sets.
The Pacers have now dropped back-to-back games, both fourth quarter collapses by the way, to put them at 21-25 on the season (and now 8-13 at home). It’s frustrating seeing them to revert to the team they were prior to the two wins in Miami largely because of how they had come away with three late game wins the week prior.
A lighter schedule will likely favor the Pacers being in games late for the next six games, but it’s hard to imagine there suddenly being positive consistency for a team that hasn’t won three straight games since December. They’ll wrap up a two-game homestand on Friday, closing out the season series with the Charlotte Hornets, currently three games ahead in fourth.