The Indiana Pacers were dealt a tough blow before tipoff when both Tyrese Haliburton and T.J. McConnell were ruled out against the Portland Trail Blazers and it showed. They played well enough in the first half despite some odd lineups, but the Blazers put it away in the third quarter, outscoring the Pacers by 14.
Indiana led 35-33 early in the second quarter when Andrew Nembhard hit the team’s sixth three pointer of the game. Unfortunately, that would not only be the last lead of the game for the Pacers, but the last three they would make until the very end of the third. In that time, Indiana was outscored by 24. Unsurprisingly, Portland drilled 10 threes in that span to blow the game wide open.
The Pacers did well to cut into that 22-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but they were never able to get any closer than 11 despite opportunities to do so. Three point shooting was once again a struggle for Indiana, finishing the night 10-33, getting outshot for the third straight game, all losses.
Even still, the outcome wasn’t exactly a surprise. Without two of their three point guards, the Pacers were left scrambling for any kind of answer at that position. Andrew Nembhard filled in as well as could be expected, dishing eight assists, but was required to play heavy minutes when attempts to see if James Johnson or Trevelin Queen could pick up the slack offered no results.
As such, the Pacers finished with just 22 assists, their lowest since the season opener. Part of that was obviously the lack of Haliburton and McConnell, but guys seemed surprised the ball was moved at all early in the game, with fumbles and dropped passes showing up more often than in a Colts game, leading to 17 points for Portland.
The game wasn’t a complete wash, however. Nembhard showed a good scoring ability, finishing with 16 while both Myles Turner and Buddy Hield showed up to score over 20. Turner especially was an offensive force, scoring 17 points in the first half, rounding out to 24 and nine rebounds, hitting three of six from deep. Hield meanwhile had 22, hitting four triples, completing his second double double with 11 rebounds.
Beyond that? Well, it’s tough to say where the positives were exactly. Aaron Nesmith reached double figures with 10 points and three steals, but that may be the standout. Isaiah Jackson in particular continued to struggle, winding up with seven points and two blocks, but looking completely out of it until the second half.
Bennedict Mathurin also seemed to struggle adjusting to life without Haliburton, going scoreless in the first half before scoring 10 in the second half, finishing just 5-15 shooting with zero free throw attempts (though not for lack of trying). Oshae Brissett had five points and five rebounds, hitting the only three off the bench and Jalen Smith picked up a pair of nice blocks, but scored just six, missing all three of his three point attempts.
The Pacers have already announced that Haliburton will miss tomorrow night’s game against the Golden State Warriors, so it’s entirely possible they’ll be running out this same unit against a Warriors team that has won seven of their last nine depending on how McConnell is feeling. That’ll increase the likelihood of this losing streak extending past three games, but the Pacers have pulled off more surprising upsets in San Francisco recently and will no doubt have plenty of motivation after the Warriors stole Indiana’s hashtag last season.