The road trip ended in a bummer for the Indiana Pacers, falling late to the New Orleans Pelicans to finish out their West Coast swing 2-3. Neither team had much success in limiting the other’s offense except for a putrid third quarter in which New Orleans crawled to a decisive 22-17 quarter victory.
That quarter made up nearly the entire final score, with the Pacers outscoring New Orleans 96-95 across the other three quarters. Indiana led 62-61 at halftime, a high scoring but ugly affair, only to see the offense drop through the floor in the third. Indiana led 72-66 at the 8:32 mark, missing their next seven shots across the next four and a half minutes, turning it over three times in the process.
New Orleans had taken the lead in that time on an 8-0 run by the time Caris LeVert hit a three to get Indiana back on top. LeVert scored seven across the next 90 seconds, but the Pelicans still wrapped up the quarter on a 7-0 run to take an 83-79 lead into the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back threes from Duane Washington Jr. briefly gave the Pacers a 95-92 lead, but eight more points from New Orleans would ultimately put them up for good despite Indiana doing their best to shoot themselves back into the game with five more threes to finish out the night.
Indiana simply couldn’t keep the Pelicans off the free throw line down the stretch. Including the late game fouls, New Orleans went 13-14 from the line in the fourth, finishing out 29-31 for the night. The Pacers meanwhile went 5-7 in the quarter, missing a total of seven free throws in the game.
Though the Pacers also tallied up nine three pointers in the fourth, that proved to be their entire offense. The Pacers scored just two points in the paint, eight total for the entire second half. Indiana may have hit 19 threes at a 41% clip, but that also means they missed 27 for the game, just three more than a Pelicans team that went just 6-30.
New Orleans made up for that difference by relentlessly attacking the Pacers inside. They scored 64 points in the paint, immediately throwing both Goga Bitadze and Isaiah Jackson into foul trouble for the entire night. They combined for just 34 minutes, committing 10 fouls between them. Jackson did pick up a pair of blocks for his trouble and the two were effective when on the floor, combining for 18 points and nine rebounds, but they were unable to play without fouling a game that was tightly called.
The Pacers were led tonight by Washington Jr. who scored a career best 21 points on 7-12 from three point range. Washington Jr. was superb from deep tonight, constantly finding the bottom of the net without much struggle. Though all 10 rotation players scored for the Pacers tonight, he was the only bench player in double figures.
LeVert scored 19 points tonight, finding a rhythm in the third quarter when the Pacers desperately needed points. He also hit a pair of tough threes in the closing seconds to keep the flame from extinguishing, but he struggled overall at 8-21, though he did well moving the ball, finishing with eight assists, five leading to three point shots.
In a night with a lot of scoring, there wasn’t much in the way of rhythm, either due to fouls or turnovers, keeping Chris Duarte from ever finding a real groove. The rookie score 14 with a pair of threes, but was just 4-11 overall. Torrey Craig meanwhile scored 13, hitting 3-5 from deep. Justin Holiday had eight, missing all three of his attempts.
Perhaps tired legs played a part in Indiana’s defensive struggles. At the end of a long road trip, they appeared unable to keep up with the quickness of New Orleans’s offense. The Pelicans outscored the Pacers 18-5 in fast break points, helping flesh out their 64-32 points in the paint advantage.
The Pacers will have a brief trip home, hosting the Charlotte Hornets for (mercifully) the final time this season on Wednesday before heading back out West for a pair of Central Standard Time games against Oklahoma City and Dallas.