It proved to be an anticlimactic finish for the Indiana Pacers, who had their impressive shotmaking go by the wayside in the fourth quarter, resulting in a double figure loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Pacers shot 7-23 in the fourth after shooting over 50% through the first three quarters, losing the fourth 26-18.
The Pacers were 2-12 from three in the final period, missing open three after open three. The Clippers meanwhile were able to put in just enough of their open looks to quickly push the game out of reach for Indiana. Paul George was electrifying all night, scoring 36 points for Los Angeles, starting the fourth with the second unit, starting the quarter 11-2 against Indiana’s backups.
The outcome probably wouldn’t have changed had Nate Bjorkgren looked to at least one of his reliable starting scorers opposite George, but it wrapped it up quicker if nothing else. That’s partially because the Pacers, to their credit, really punched above their weight most of the night, overcoming some questionable passing, hot Clippers three point shooting (and shooting in general, oh my), and a whole mess of solo basketball to trail by just three heading into the fourth.
It was one of the most unique Pacers games in recent memory given the lack of traditional success they had tonight, trading any semblance of defense and excellent ball movement for a pure shotmaking execution. At times, it worked in Indiana’s favor. They may not have led by more than six at any point in the game, but they were also able to work their way back from similar deficits for much of it as well.
Unfortunately, the offensive success that was there against younger teams like Minnesota and Memphis wasn’t quite as sustainable against a veteran-led squad like the Clippers, especially against an elite player like George. That was no more evident than the little defense of the night coming from Nicolas Batum, who had five blocks on the night, half the game’s total.
The misses started piling up from three in the second half, making up a bulk of the difference on the scoreboard. The Clippers were at or above 50% for much of the night, finishing a wildly efficient 13-28 while the Pacers languished, never quite settling in, and eventually just firing away, finishing 9-40.
Those misses, many of them wide open looks, played a part in the isolation heavy offense. The Pacers finished with a season low 14 assists. dropping them to 2-12 when they’re under 25 assists. It’s still strange enough to believe they could’ve pulled this exact game out against a lesser opponent tonight.
While George stole the show in his return to Indy, the Pacers got big performances from their top three guys, including 55 combined points from the dynamic backcourt of Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert. LeVert had 26, flashing plenty of crafty shots inside, leading to 13 free throw attempts. He led the way with six assists while also having three blocks and two steals, joined in the steals category by Edmond Sumner and T.J. McConnell to manufacture some stops.
LeVert’s lone strike on the shot chart came from three point range, where he was just 1-8, his lone making being a heavily contested attempt after missing some solid looks earlier. Brogdon and Justin Holiday were the lone Pacers to make multiple threes, but both shot under 50%, with Holiday going 2-7 and Brogdon shooting 3-8.
It was again, the only real blemish on Brogdon’s night offensively, as he finished with 29 points, going 12-18 overall. Domantas Sabonis also did a lot of positive things offensively, scoring 20 on 9-17 with 13 rebounds, hitting some tougher shots than he’s gotten to fall in recent matches. The big problem, of course, came on the defensive end. While the Pacers scored 60 points in the paint, they still allowed 52, including 14 incredibly easy points for Ivica Zubac.
Off the bench, the Pacers were limited after Doug McDermott left in the first half with an ankle sprain, though his impact was already felt in a positive way for the Clippers with the defense Batum played against him. Along with rough nights from Goga Bitadze and Jeremy Lamb (0-8 shooting, three points) and overall inconsistencies from Aaron Holiday, it left a lot on the shoulders of McConnell with the bench, scoring 13, including some fun highlights in the first half.
This loss was hardly a surprise given Indiana’s history against quality opponents this season (now 1-13 against teams above .600), so it’s fairly easy to move past it on its face especially given there were far more positives tonight than in a number of these matchups, but it would’ve been a really really nice win to have following the sad news of Bobby “Slick” Leonard’s passing earlier today.
Slick would’ve gotten some nice Boom Baby’s in tonight, be it Sabonis’s opening triple, or McConnell’s buzzer beating corner three to end the first.
It was no doubt an incredibly difficult night for many of the Pacers staffers, current and former, including Bjorkgren’s jacket tribute and Frank Vogel’s Boom Baby pin. The Pacers also had a touching tribute and moment of silence at the Fieldhouse.
Mark Boyle spoke on the Hall of Famer prior to the game, paying tribute to his longtime radio partner by speaking to what made Slick such a wonderful person, saying at the end that Slick was “always the man I wanted to be, but never could.” It served to not just to admire Slick was through his extensive accomplishments within the Pacers and Indiana basketball as a whole, but that he was someone to look up to because of his compassion and personality.
Thanks, Jake. It was a privilege to share my thoughts on a wonderful man https://t.co/qQkpDvfLzx— Mark Joseph Boyle (@Mark_J_Boyle) April 13, 2021
There’s no easy to move past the loss of Slick Leonard, but to celebrate his incredible life with a Pacers game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is perhaps the most fitting way imaginable. On the court, the Pacers will have to wait a bit longer to enjoy more days at the Fieldhouse, packing up yet another road trip starting tomorrow night in Houston, when they face the Rockets.