An especially poor second half performance did the Indiana Pacers in today, starting their seven game road trip off with a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Pacers shot just 4-22 in the third quarter, scoring 12 and missing all 12 of their three point attempts. It was bad from the first tick and just never came around.
The Clippers, short Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, weren’t world-beaters, but given what they were up against, it didn’t take much for them to slowly inch their lead out of reach for a Pacers team that left a lot of shots short. All of that erased what was a rather exciting first half, featuring a Jalen Smith bounceback half.
Smith got the Pacers started tonight, hitting a jumper at the three point line and then an actual three pointer as Indiana jumped out to an early lead. Tyrese Haliburton had seven first quarter assists, setting up Smith for all 10 of his first quarter points. Indiana led 27-19 late in the quarter, but allowed Los Angeles to close the quarter on a 16-2 run to take the lead.
Indiana was just never able to get over the hump from that point, outscoring the Clippers in the quarter, but never regaining the lead. Smith did have nine more points in the quarter, finishing with a career high 23 points and nine rebounds. Only four Pacers reached double figures tonight, with Haliburton finishing with 15 points and 11 assists, T.J. McConnell scoring 14, and Buddy Hield scoring 10.
Only McConnell of those latter three shot above 50% with Hield in particular having a tough night, shooting 3-14 and 1-9 from three. Smith and Haliburton were the only Pacers to make multiple threes at three each, the Pacers finishing an abysmal 9-42 from deep. Somehow the Clippers shot even worse, making just 6-32 from three, but the Clippers had a massive safety blanket from the jump in Ivica Zubac
Zubac dominated the glass all night, bullying his way to 12 offensive rebounds, scoring 12 second chance points. That was part of a 31 point, 29 rebound effort from the Clippers center, taking full advantage of Indiana’s lack of size. The Pacers were able to weather that outburst early, but once the shots stopped falling, it became the glaring issue especially with the rest of the LA lineup offering a limited or inefficient scoring punch.
The loss drops Indiana to 11-8 overall and 1-2 in their last three. It’s the first time in a month they’ve lost two of three and with such a lengthy road trip ahead, it’s on them to keep it from extending any further. That won’t be an easy task, however, because while Indiana won’t be traveling at all before tomorrow night’s game, they will be facing a rejuvenated Los Angeles Lakers team that has won five of their last six.