INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time this season the Pacers have a .500 record after losing 3 straight games.
Just as they did last weekend, the Pacers (12-12) lost both of their weekend games.
Friday’s second matchup with the Pelicans this season had just as much drama as the first—a Pacers road win in overtime.
But this wild comeback wasn’t finished off by Indiana’s bench unit, as the Pacers lost 114-113.
Down 18 points late in the third quarter, Nate Bjorkgren’s bench unit entered the game and played how the starters should have been playing.
Bjorkgren stuck with the group of T.J. McConnell, Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, Justin Holiday and Goga Bitdaze until Bitadze fouled out late in the 4th. Myles Turner entered the game and actually had a look at the game-winner on a floater in the lane, but it just bounced off the rim.
Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis combined to go just 9-of-28 from the floor.
Justin Holiday led Indiana with 22 points (7-of-13 from behind the arc).
On Sunday afternoon, the Pacers took on the best team in the league.
Utah, who was finishing up the close to a 5-game eastern trip, showed why they are one of the best in league in Sunday’s second half.
A low-scoring first half had the game tied at halftime 47-47.
But the Jazz’s control of the paint and just enough offense built a second-half lead that the Pacers could never again re-take.
Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 27 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds.
Per usual, Rudy Gobert controlled the defensive rim for the Jazz, and the Pacers shot an ugly 8-of-29 from behind the arc. The final score was 103-95.
Domantas Sabonis led Indiana with 20 points on 7-of-19 shooting.
The Jazz have now won 15 of 16 games.The Pacers will be off until a road back-to-back on Wednesday/Thursday (@Nets, @Pistons).
Three Things Learned
1. First Big Road Block: Nate Bjorkgren is now in the midst of his first true road block as an NBA head coach. With the losses this weekend (3 straight and now 5 of 6), the Pacers are at .500 for the first time all season. Until this weekend, Indiana had been at least two games above .500 since the first week of the season. And this all comes with the Pacers heading on the road for 3 straight this coming week. One issue that has showed up more as of late is just a lack of scoring punch from the starting unit. Now, we obviously have to note the Pacers are currently without their starting shooting guard (Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren), which certainly hinders things offensively. Those guys aren’t coming back though for a while, so the Pacers are facing a crossroads in what type of team they will be to close out the first half of the season. Is this a top 4 or 5 team in the East or more of a middle of the pack team in the conference?
2. Goga Getting More Run: When you’ve lost 3 straight, and 5 of 6, it’s hard to find some positives. But we are starting to see a little more consistent run for Goga Bitadze. And there’s been better play from Bitadze as he’s healthy for a long stretch and showing some more strides on each end of the floor. He’s shooting the ball better than 50 percent from the floor and did knock down a couple of threes on Friday. Again, Bitadze is not likely to get major action with the likes of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis here and healthy, but his development is so vital to helping out the Pacers create more homegrown, young assets.
3. Bench Almost Finishes It Off: Let’s go back to Friday night when the Pacers ended a game like you don’t typically see in the NBA. With the starters helping the Pacers get down 18 points late in the third quarter, it was already time to get the reserves in the game. But that quintet of T.J. McConnell, Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, Justin Holiday and Goga Bitdaze played together until Bitadze fouled out late in the 4th. Myles Turner entered the game and actually had a look at the game-winner on a floater in the lane, but it just bounced off the rim. Hindsight is obviously 20/20, but the decision to stick with Turner for the last-second shot, and not insert Domantas Sabonis was a bit head scratching. It’s not like Turner was on the floor for the vast majority of that comeback. Subbing in Sabonis would have made much more sense for the game-winning look.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-@Nets (Wednesday, 2-10, at 8:00 PM)
-@Pistons (Thursday, 2-11, at 8:00 PM)
-@Hawks (Saturday, 2-13, at 7:30 PM)
-Bulls (Monday, 2-15, at 7:00 PM)
-@Timberwolves (Wednesday, 2-17, at 8:00 PM)