Despite an exciting finish, the Indiana Pacers still couldn’t come up with a win, coming up short to the Utah Jazz. The Pacers fell behind by 12 midway in the fourth quarter, but cut the deficit down to two on three separate occasions late only to have the Jazz key up a response, putting the game out of reach in the final minute.
It was a feast or famine kind of night for Indiana’s offense, coming out strong in the first quarter, scoring 33, only to muster up 18 points in the second. That flipped the game from a six-point advantage to a two-point deficit, but it was clear throughout the first half that the Pacers were playing a team closer to their level than many of their recent opponents, which would give them a chance in the second half, so long as they could put up some points.
The good news is that they did just that in the third quarter, regaining the lead on a big start from Aaron Nesmith, who had seven in the opening stretch, giving Indiana the lead. The bad news came on the other end as the Jazz got into a real groove shooting the ball, connecting on 7-10 from three point range, never allowing the Pacers to build any sort of sustainable lead.
Jordan Clarkson gave Utah the lead late in the third with a three, then extended the game to four on a three point foul shoot. Indiana’s second unit helped trim the lead to one heading into the fourth, but after T.J. McConnell gave Indiana a 90-89 advantage to open the fourth, the Jazz outscored the Pacers 14-4 to go ahead by nine.
Utah’s three point shooting continued to crush Indiana’s shot at winning, pushing the game to 108-96 with about five minutes remaining. At that point, the Pacers got a much needed boost from Tyrese Haliburton, who drove to the basket to cut the lead to 10, kicking off a 7-0 run and eventually cutting the deficit to two with 3:10 by scoring or assisting on all 12 of their points in that run, finding Bennedict Mathurin for a fantastic dunk.
SLAMMED IT HOME.— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) February 14, 2023
Tyrese Haliburton with the dime to Bennedict Mathurin for the dunk. pic.twitter.com/YNzecgpIVP
Out of a timeout, Colin Sexton would score to extend the lead to four as Haliburton responded with a layup of his own. Indiana’s two biggest foes in the second half, Clarkson and three point defense, came together for the sixth time, extending the lead to five. After a successful stop, Haliburton again cut it to two, shaking off Kelly Olynyk for a wide open three.
Tyrese Haliburton had him on skates. pic.twitter.com/XZfbRVww8P— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) February 14, 2023
Haliburton took the task of guarding Clarkson on the other end and would cover him very well, but Clarkson wasn’t going to be stopped, fading away on the baseline for a tough jumper that again made it a two-possession game with 54 seconds on the clock. This time, Haliburton couldn’t key in a response and the win slowly faded from Indiana’s sight, winding up their fifth straight loss.
It was a tough second half for Indiana, allowing 70 points and 11-18 shooting from three point range. The one rough patch offensively at the beginning of the fourth was all it took to ensure the Pacers would once again take on a loss, despite some positive performances throughout.
Haliburton led the way for Indiana with 30 points and 12 assists, plus three steals. He scored 25 in the second half, 12 of those coming in the fourth quarter. He scored or assisted on 19 straight points down the stretch, finishing with three steals and one turnover. The steals, and lack of turnovers, were a real bright spot for Indiana, forcing the Jazz into 19 miscues and outscoring them 24-11 in points off turnovers.
Nesmith had some big stretches to open both halves, scoring eight in the first and seven in the third to finish with 19 points, shooting 7-9 and 4-5 from three with six rebounds, bouncing back after averaging 5.3 points on 23% shooting the previous four outings. Nesmith found some of his success in transition, helping Indiana to another healthy advantage, 20-7 in fast break points.
block ➡️ dunk— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) February 14, 2023
Ideal on both ends of the floor for the #Pacers.
TV: Bally Sports Indiana
Stream: https://t.co/bPPFz9i4lr pic.twitter.com/GdvephyJSc
The block on that play was courtesy of Daniel Theis, who started tonight with Myles Turner ruled out. Theis didn’t move the needle much in the first half, but had five points in the third to help Indiana to a five-point lead alongside Haliburton. His 11 outmatched both Andrew Nembhard and Buddy Hield, who combined for 10.
Hield had eight of those, hitting just 2-11 from three, struggling throughout the game to get any kind of consistent shooting going, even after connecting on a late three as the Pacers fought back from their 12-point deficit. Nembhard meanwhile had just two points on two shots, continuing to struggle with all things offense, which didn’t pair well with McConnell’s turnover issues, committing four to three assists.
Off the bench, Mathurin led the way with 19 points, scoring seven in the first quarter to help push Indiana into the lead early. He and Sexton went back and fourth in the final period with Mathurin keeping Sexton from an easy bucket twice, blocking one of his shots out of bounds with a purpose.
Not in Bennedict Mathurin's house, NOPE. #Pacers— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) February 14, 2023
TV: Bally Sports Indiana
Stream: https://t.co/bPPFz9i4lr pic.twitter.com/iiAxNcG27I
That play, in all its flashiness, continued a familiar pair of trends for the Pacers in failing to flip possession on blocks and eventually failing to come up with rebounds, ultimately allowing the Jazz to come away with three points on that possession. The Jazz would finish with 14 second chance points on 11 offensive rebounds, though to Indiana’s credit, they did limit Utah’s success off of blocks, allowing just four points on seven.
Isaiah Jackson had four blocks on his own, including two on a single possession that would eventually lead to a Jordan Nwora layup. Jackson continues to play well since his return to the rotation, scoring 11 points with five rebounds to go alongside those blocks. His only real struggles came at the free throw line, shooting just 5-9 on a night the Pacers missed six total, a particularly tough number of misses in a six-point game.
Jackson says no TWICE #Pacers— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) February 14, 2023
TV: Bally Sports Indiana
Stream: https://t.co/bPPFz9i4lr pic.twitter.com/kMiOheUAh7
The Pacers had a pair of debuts tonight from their recent trade deadline moves, including a return from Broad Ripple grad George Hill. Hill was quiet in 10 minutes of action, only picking up a steal, but there was more of note from Nwora, who stepped in to seven first quarter points, including a three. Nwora had three rebounds and two steals, finishing with those same seven, but it was a positive debut overall and it will be interesting to see how the Pacers find a role for him in these final 24 games.
The loss drops Indiana to 2-16 in their last 18 games, their worst such stretch since 2006-07, when they lost 17 of 19 in Rick Carlisle’s previous stint with the team. In that stretch, the Pacers had a 12-game losing streak, something they haven’t had in this particular one, but a tough slate to end February doesn’t leave many realistic chances for wins given how they’ve played of late.
One of those opportunities will be Wednesday night, however, hosting a Chicago Bulls team that sits just to games ahead of them in the standings and will enter on their own losing streak of four games. That will be the final game before the All-Star Break and would be a nice way to head into what’s shaping up to be a busy weekend for members of the Pacers, including Haliburton, Mathurin, Nembhard, and perhaps Hield.