The Indiana Pacers got to experience the epic highs and lows of NBA basketball tonight in a frustrating overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Lance Stephenson saved the game for the Pacers, only to give it back in overtime as his corner three late in the fourth turned into five straight misses in OT as Indiana shot a woeful 1-10 in the extra frame.
Though Stephenson’s game-tying three was a thing of beauty; set up by great hustle on the loose ball by Oshae Brissett, it wasn’t a game that should’ve been in that position to begin with. The Pacers found themselves down three with under 10 seconds after taking an eight-point lead with under five minutes to go, needing Lance to give them one and he delivered, tying the game at 123-123.
In the overtime period, it was pretty obvious from the outset that neither team had much interest in offensive execution, eight straight misses between the two teams eventually resulting in a pair of points from Buddy Hield to break the tie nearly two and a half minutes in. Stephenson meanwhile missed three of those shots, leaving all of them short.
After Shai Gilgeous-Alexander held up defensively by blocking Tyrese Haliburton, Darius Bazley tied the game for OKC, a pair of Stephenson misses and his sixth foul later, Gilgeous-Alexander was at the line, completing a three point play with 20 seconds on the clock to put the Thunder ahead by three.
Haliburton deferred all night, but part of that was Oklahoma City stepping up on him on the defensive end. After making his first five shots, he was just 1-5 to finish, unable to get a good look on either of his overtime attempts with his game-tying attempt going off script thanks to solid perimeter defense from Isaiah Roby.
By the time the buzzer sounded on Indiana’s 129-125 loss, there were a number of areas that contributed heavily to the Pacers having their winning ways halted at one game. Despite having some solid stops in overtime, defense was far from a focus for Indiana tonight, allowing 70 paint points.
A good chunk of that poor defense came in the second quarter when the Thunder, the league’s 30th ranked offense, poured in 40 points, 22 of those in the paint, outscoring Indiana by 15. That also just happened to be Indiana’s only sub-30 point quarter, highlighted by excellent first and thirds, outscoring the Thunder 68-52.
The Pacers also continued to be bafflingly poor at the free throw, shooting just 13-22, putting them at a dreadful 63% for their last five games, down 14% on the season. Isaiah Jackson led the way with 10 attempts, hitting seven, as he finished with 17 points, six rebounds, and five blocks.
Much of Indiana’s success came and went with Jackson, who helped spark Indiana to a 10-0 lead and then brought them back into the lead early in the third quarter after having fallen behind by eight, turning a block into opportunities for the Pacers, including an excellent stretch of hustle ball, setting up Jackson for the lead-changing alley oop.
The Pacers were led on the night by Hield, scoring a team high 29 points. Hield got things going to start the first and third quarters, hitting two of his five threes to open the game and then scoring the first four as part of his 12 third quarter points as the Pacers staged their second half comeback.
Hield scored seven more in the fourth, including a three with 48 seconds left to halt a 16-4 Oklahoma City run that had put them ahead by four. It was another solid outing for Hield, who also had seven rebounds and five assists, the Pacers as a team totaling 31 assists on the night.
Haliburton led the way with 11, finishing with a 14 point, 11 assist double double. Much of the night saw Haliburton looking for teammates, leading to him taking just three shots through three quarters. Though there was success in his facilitating, there were a lot of points left on the board where he could’ve taken charge, partially shown by his four turnovers.
Again, credit to the Thunder for limiting Haliburton’s effectiveness as a scorer late in the game, forcing the ball out of his hands more than maybe he would’ve preferred. After having been gifted a pair of missed Gilgeous-Alexander free throws with under 30 seconds left, Haliburton passed up a contested shot to find Jackson in the corner, with the big man stepping out of bounds in the process, nearly allowing the Thunder to close out the win.
Malcolm Brogdon returned to action tonight, playing 31 minutes and scoring 15 points. Though he was just 6-14 overall, he did hit a trio of threes, picking up four assists in the process. The starting trio of Hield, Brogdon, and Haliburton proved fruitful out of the gate. The Pacers opened up the game on a 13-3 run, all four field goals made and assisted on by those three.
Brissett led the way on the glass with 15 rebounds, five on the offensive end, picking up two steals and two blocks along the way. He scored 10, but needed all of his 17 shots to get there, shooting just 5-17 and 0-5 from three point range. He was joined in double figures by Jalen Smith off the bench, putting in 16 with six boards a block. Neither was particularly effective in stopping OKC inside, but both provided a good dose of energy all night.
Stephenson meanwhile closed out the game with 14 points and four assists, playing well on the offensive end through the end of regulation. He was 6-9 before entering the overtime period, where he appeared to maybe be a bit gassed, leaving four of his five overtime attempts short off the front of the rim, leading to extensive frustration on the bench after he fouled out late.
It was a game the Pacers probably should’ve won, but in keeping with the running theme of the season, their entire season has been defined by games they should’ve won but didn’t. The loss drops them to 3-15 on the year in games decided by four points or less, going a long, long way in explaining why they’re just 20-41 on the season.
The Pacers are now just a half game ahead of Oklahoma City for the league’s 26th best record, dropping them two games back of Sacramento. The Pacers will wrap up their three game homestand Sunday afternoon when they have an early 5 p.m. Eastern tip against the scorching Boston Celtics before hitting the road for seven of their next nine.