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Pacers final score: Heat close out Pacers 116-111

Buddy Hield scored 16 of his 29 in the fourth quarter, but Indiana couldn’t complete a comeback against against Miami, dropping their 10th straight on the road.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Coming up short in a number of areas proved costly for the Indiana Pacers tonight against the Miami Heat. Whether it was free throws, rebounding, or success in the paint, it was a rough night all around, yet they still managed to be within one possession at the end of the game, which might be a bigger positive if not for the large amount of losses the team has taken on lately.

Among the issues for Indiana tonight was one of their trademarks: bad first quarter play. The Pacers had a decent start to the game, tying things up early on a deep Buddy Hield three, making it a 9-9 game.

Afterwards, however, came the first quarter issues. Gabe Vincent was fouled on a three point shot, then proceeded to knock down two threes, scoring nine in a 14-0 Miami run that put them ahead 23-9. T.J. McConnell squeezed all he could out of Indiana’s struggling offense, scoring six in the quarter and back-to-back threes from Hield to finish things out got the Pacers to within seven, but reliably poor defense allowed Miami to keep scoring, finishing the first with 39.

Bam Adebayo pushed the lead back to double figures by conjuring up the spirit of David West’s midrange jumper, but McConnell was again able to drive the offense, scoring five as part of a 9-0 run that cut the lead to two. A strong stretch from Chris Duarte gave the Pacers their first lead of the night, driving to the rim for an and-one opportunity, with Daniel Theis and Andrew Nembhard extending the lead to five.

Indiana wouldn’t relinquish the lead the rest of the half, but could only go into the break with a three point advantage despite outscoring the Heat 33-21. They opened the third in a positive manner, however, outscoring Miami 7-2 to take an eight-point lead on back-to-back threes from Hield and Myles Turner.

Maintaining a six-point lead midway through the third, Jimmy Butler helped grind the game to a complete halt. He willed his way to the line with consecutive three point plays as the Heat took a 77-75 lead. Tyrese Haliburton responded with a three to flip the score, but Miami’s ability to muck up the game made that the final lead of the night for Indiana, outscoring the Pacers 11-6 to end the third as part of a larger 27-13 stretch that put them ahead by six.

Adebayo’s jumper made things rather dire for the Pacers early in the fourth, taking a commanding 12-point lead, but Indiana, to their credit, had a response in them. Hield was fouled on a three point shot, leading to eight straight points from him, including a transition dunk to cut the lead in half.

Turner got into the action with five straight points, making it a 99-98 game midway through the quarter. At that point, the Pacers failed twice to come up with an offensive rebound, leading to three crucial Miami points as part of a 6-0 run that pushed the game to seven. Hield kept the game in reach, however, hitting two more threes down the stretch, but time slipped away from the Pacers with Haliburton connecting on a corner three with 10 seconds left being the final look they had before Adebayo and the Heat sealed things at the line.

The differences in the game became more pronounced given the slim difference on the scoreboard. The Pacers were outscored 36-20 at the free throw line, largely erasing what was a healthy three point advantage at 15-6. They shot nearly 50% for the game, but hovered around 30% for a majority of the second half. They allowed 15 offensive rebounds as well, getting outrebounded by 10 on the offensive glass.

Those team issues were part of a number of individual issues as well. Until the fourth quarter rally, T.J. McConnell was the team’s leading scorer with 18 points, 16 of those coming in the first half. Hield and Turner both closed strong, scoring 23 of Indiana’s 28 in the quarter, 16 from Hield.

Hield finished with a team high 29 with seven rebounds, going 6-12 from deep. Turner meanwhile scored 21 with 10 boards, blocking two shots and going 10-11 from the line. Unfortunately, their 50 points fell short of Adebayo and Butler’s 63, 38 alone from Adebayo, who was 12-16 from the floor and 14-14 at the free throw line.

Haliburton meanwhile scored just 11 points, completing a double double with 10 assists. Haliburton had just eight shots on the night, going 3-8 overall and committed four turnovers, once again finding himself clamped up despite scoring 43 points in the previous meeting.

Haliburton was hesitant to pull the trigger much of the night, including on what would be his final points late in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to three. While he got a positive look in the corner with 10 seconds left, it came after passing out of a more contested shot about seven seconds earlier. Perhaps he misses that particular attempt, but that was a fair amount of time to lose off the clock in that moment even if from an existential standpoint, the comeback was likely futile regardless of the outcome of that possession.

Indiana did outscore a shorthanded Miami bench 33-9, but McConnell was the lone double figure bench scorer. Theis scored nine, showing some positive minutes in the second quarter while Duarte also had his positives at that time, scoring four. Bennedict Mathurin, however, was gobbled up on both ends, struggling to attack the rim against an effective Miami defense, and getting some defensive lessons against Butler.

That resulted in just 13 minutes played for Mathurin, who had two points, both at the free throw line. Nembhard was the fifth double figure scorer, finishing with 10 and Aaron Nesmith scored seven, showing flashes of scoring, but mostly struggling offensively before going out of the game late after taking a hard foul contesting Caleb Martin at the basket.

The loss drops Indiana to 2-13 in their last 15 games, which has proven enough to pus them down to 12th in the East after entering the day in 10th. They’re now a full game back of both Washington and Toronto with the league’s sixth worst record and 2.5 clear of 13th place Orlando.

It feels like a broken record to say the schedule will remain tough moving forward, but that’s simply the stretch the Pacers are in. They’ll play their 11th game in their last 16 against a winning team when they return home for a game to face the Phoenix Suns to open a weekend back-to-back. The Suns have bounced back after their own struggles, going 9-2 after falling below .500 themselves.