It was a familiar refrain for the Indiana Pacers, losing three more players to injury tonight against the Brooklyn Nets, but to their credit, they did piece together a solid fourth quarter comeback attempt after falling behind by 18 after the third quarter. It featured an active Pacers defense forcing six fourth quarter turnovers, but that success failed to carry over to the ensuing offensive possession, stalling the comeback at seven before Steve Nash brought Kevin Durant back in to close out the game for good.
The Pacers opened the fourth on a 13-2 run, but shot just 5-13, wasting any number of opportunities before Durant hit Brooklyn’s first field goal of the quarter just shy of the halfway mark. A bit of a nice run led by Caris LeVert brought Indiana back to within eight, but the blink of an eye later, it was a 17-point game, dropping the Pacers in their second straight loss.
The game was tied at 20-20 midway through the first, but it was a struggle to contain not only Durant but also Jeff Green and Alize Johnson, as the Nets used a quick 9-0 run to jump ahead by nine. Trailing 35-28 heading into the second, the Pacers got their first bit of bad news: Malcolm Brogdon out with a sore hamstring.
The Nets pounced, outscoring Indiana 11-2 to open the second, eventually going up by as many as 18 in the quarter and 23 midway through the third. The Pacers actually had an impressive offensive quarter in the third, scoring 41, but it took every single one of those points to just keep the game under 20, as Brooklyn put up a staggering 45, 22 alone from Durant.
Edmond Sumner closed the quarter with a fast break dunk, but he immediately limped off the floor, favoring his knee after he had banged it with Durant’s earlier in the quarter. The injury woes didn’t stop there, as Blake Griffin’s elbow came crashing down on JaKarr Sampson on a dunk attempt early in the fourth, leaving Sampson on the floor and dazed. Sampson got up on his own accord before being helped back to the locker room with a head injury.
Kelan Martin and Aaron Holiday picked up the extra minutes with the injury early in the fourth, but neither was much of an impact on the offensive end, missing four three point attempts between them. Martin in particular struggled with three points on 1-6 shooting, but to his credit, he was effective as one can be against Durant once he returned, forcing actual stops against Durant’s automatic jumper.
LeVert led the way for the Pacers with 36, picking up his scoring with the continued injuries. LeVert played one of his best offensive games with the Pacers, shooting 14-24 and 5-9 from three point range, doing his best to at least keep pace with Durant’s 42 on 16-24 shooting. Unfortunately, without at least Brogdon, the offensive support just wasn’t there.
Sumner was the closest, scoring 16 on 6-9 shooting in his 23 minutes of action. Oshae Brissett had 14, hitting a pair of threes. A. Holiday also hit a pair of threes, scoring 12 on 3-9 shooting. Doug McDermott had 15 to lead the second unit, but also struggled from deep, going 1-5.
Missed threes early hurt Indiana’s chances of keeping pace in the first quarter. Between McDermott and Justin Holiday, they shot 1-11 from deep, the Pacers as a team were just 11-39. LeVert was the only player above 50% on the night. For the Nets meanwhile, they warmed up in the second half, going 8-17 after the break, getting what felt like every timely three possible in the third quarter especially.
The Nets also got a career night out of Alize Johnson. The former Pacer completed a 20/20 outing with 20 points and 21 rebounds, doing what he does best to help lift Brooklyn to a 50-38 rebounding advantage.
Indiana drops the season series to the Nets 0-3, which isn’t a great sign as a successful run in the play-in games will likely result in a first round matchup with this team. Each of Brookyln’s big three beat Indiana on their own over the course of the season and while they may not ever be on the floor at the same time, neither are the Pacers.
With 10 games left and injuries ravaging the team, it would appear the Pacers could be down for the count, but the schedule refuses to give up hope. Indiana will almost certainly have a shot in the next three games to pick up wins regardless of who takes the floor, starting with a road matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.