Once again, a complete lack of execution late cost the Indiana Pacers a potential win, bricking their way into the loss column the entire fourth quarter, not only from the floor but also the free throw line. The Pacers shot 4-14 from the floor in final quarter against the New York Knicks all while holding them to a game low 20 points, still losing the quarter in part due to five misses at the line.
The inability to score in anything resembling “clutch minutes” wasted yet another solid all around effort from the short-handed Pacers, getting career nights from both Keifer Sykes and Duane Washington Jr., but little from anyone else outside of Torrey Craig. Indiana’s remaining three starters (Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Justin Holiday) combined for 23 points, with Sabonis making up a bulk of that with 15.
That put the weight of the game on the young guys, with Sykes stepping up in a big way to lead the Pacers with 22 points. He excelled from the jump, making three straight threes (with a steal!) to help Indiana to an 18-10 lead.
Unfortunately, RJ Barrett, a Hall of Famer against the Pacers, also had it going. He scored 17 in the first quarter, guiding the Knicks on a 16-0 run as a response to Indiana’s start. Barrett scored 24 in the first half, putting the Knicks up double figures before getting his first break of the game.
The combination of Craig and Justin Anderson gave the Pacers some semblance of a defensive identity, holding the Knicks to just eight points in the final six minutes of the second quarter, tying it up by halftime at 55-55. Out of the break, an exciting back and forth broke out, with Turner stepping up to provide some much needed energy, including a monster jam against Taj Gibson.
Though they briefly put themselves in the lead at times, they simply couldn’t string together enough stops to prevent New York from jumping back on top. Down 73-72 with just under four minutes remaining in the third, the wheels effectively came off for Indiana, with the Knicks closing the quarter on an 11-5 run that certainly didn’t get any better once in the fourth.
The Pacers finished the night shooting just 42% from the floor, missing 11 free throws as well. Through all of this, they shot a dreadful 9-38 from three point range, almost fooling themselves into taking so many after starting the game 4-7 from deep. From there, the Knicks just executed better, outscoring Indiana in the paint by 16, pulling in 14 offensive rebounds.
All of these late game struggles are an easy way to explain why the Pacers are on a five game losing streak that doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon, but also 10 games under .500 for the first time in six years. It really takes away from what positives the Pacers do have throughout the game, especially in seeing both Sykes and Washington Jr. have big nights.
In addition to Sykes’s team high 22, Washington Jr. scored 17, overcoming a rough start to pile on points and dimes. They led the way for Indiana on offense, with a lot of deferring taking place, for sure, but there was such a frustrating lack of impact from Indiana’s other starters that it definitely didn’t hurt them.
Off the bench, Lance Stephenson scored five with a pair of assists, spending much of the night looking to defer, with varying levels of success not only from guys making or missing his passes, but also in trying to make things happen that may not have been there.
Craig was the lone bench scorer in double figures, scoring 15 pulling in seven rebounds while playing as Indiana’s catalyst in terms of effort. After diving into the stands to save a loose ball, he would effectively wrap up his night with a groin injury.
The Pacers will return home for a quick turnaround tomorrow night, facing the Brooklyn Nets, who expect to debut Kyrie Irving for the first time this season after being reinstated following his refusal to get vaccinated.
While the Pacers did have both Jeremy Lamb and Malcolm Brogdon test out of the health and safety protocols, neither are expected to play tomorrow, which doesn’t set up an ideal type of night for Indiana against Brooklyn’s All-NBA trio of Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant.