The Indiana Pacers had their losing streak extended to five games in spectacular fashion, getting destroyed by the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road. The Pacers were out of this one from the jump, trailing 17-1 before Buddy Hield dropped his first and only basket of the game, setting a fairly ominous tone for Indiana’s offensive struggles.
After keeping the deficit at 16 to end the first, the Pacers finally found some life to start the second, scoring seven straight to force an OKC timeout. Led by Andrew Nembhard, Indiana continued to push back into the game, scoring six and dishing to one of Indiana’s three triples as they closed the gap to three at 40-37, taking full advantage of Oklahoma City’s bench to climb back into it.
However, that would be the only time the game was even within a single possession as Luguentz Dort hit a three on the other end, immediately doubling the lead. The game would hold at four for a moment, but Indiana’s turnovers opened up countless opportunities for OKC, quickly extending the lead back to nine.
Bennedict Mathurin trimmed the lead to six, again briefly following Isaiah Joe’s second three of the quarter, as the Thunder finished the half on an 8-0 run. Early in the third, Indiana was again able to slice into the deficit, but on four separate occasions after cutting the lead to 10 or 11 points, the Thunder locked and loaded a response each time, finding the . From there, the Thunder struck hard, rattling off 14 straight to put them ahead 87-63, eventually wrapping up a 42-point third quarter to put the game on ice.
While Indiana made things look a bit more presentable in the fourth quarter, getting them above both 40% shooting and 20 assists thanks to a 33-point quarter, it was merely window dressing for one of their worst showings of the year. Heading into the fourth, the Thunder had six double figure scorers while Indiana had just two, 13 each from Nembhard and Mathurin.
The Pacers tied their a season high in turnovers tonight, committing 24. That led to 36 points for the Thunder, which can tell the story of the game right there, crumbling against any kind of defensive pressure, even letting the mere presence scare them out of a number of wide open layups. Meanwhile, their extra effort plays weren’t turning into positives and what would be considered positives were often met with damaging miscues.
Myles Turner finished the game with six blocks on the night, but only one resulted in points for the Pacers. In fact, all three early in the third led to Thunder points. The inability to finish off possessions was detrimental to start the second half, stunting any shot at an Indiana comeback despite some success on the offensive end.
Nembhard would close the night Indiana’s leading scorer with 18. His play early in the second quarter was a real boost, scoring eight on 4-5 shooting. Unfortunately, he struggled the rest of the way, shooting just 3-11. Some miscommunication from Chris Duarte led Rick Carlisle to pull Duarte aside early, opening up minutes for Trevelin Queen.
Queen played well, giving the Pacers a nice energy boost along with Oshae Brissett, eventually getting a bigger shot in the fourth to lead the bench with 13 points and nine rebounds, blocking three shots. Brissett meanwhile had six rebounds, though he didn’t find the same offensive success, shooting 1-11.
While it’s not a surprise they’d look like a much less effective team without Tyrese Haliburton, it’s maybe gone a bit worse than expected, dropping from a top 10 offense to near the bottom in his absence. The ease in which Haliburton sets up guys is one of the reasons why, which has erased Hield almost completely and limited Turner tonight, scoring just seven on 3-4 shooting despite coming off a 30-point game against Milwaukee.
Though there’s plenty to be unhappy about with this current stretch of basketball (Carlisle and Turner each had some frustrations to take out on the sidelines), it doesn’t help matters that all five of their opponents in this losing streak boast top 12 defenses. That doesn’t explain away everything, of course, but these aren’t ideal games to feel your way through, especially given the team’s carelessness tonight.
Things may lighten up a bit from that particular area on Friday when they continue the road trip against the 18th ranked defensive team, but any fleeting optimism from that is sure to be soured completely when they notice the front of the jersey read “Denver.” The Denver Nuggets entered tonight on a seven game winning streak, in a dead heat with previous Pacers destroyers Memphis for the top spot in the West.