RJ Barrett rises up to shoot over the stretching hand of Justin Holiday with Victor Oladipo looking on in the background
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 02: RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks shoots the ball against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on January 02, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Pacers Start 2021 with Tough Performance in Loss to Knicks

That wasn’t pretty for the Indiana Pacers.

Heading into Saturday’s matchup at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the New York Knicks, many were expecting a comparable outcome to the two clubs’ last battle in the season opener on December 23. Indiana handled the Knicks that night 121-107. But it was far from it.

The Blue and Gold failed to bring that same intensity and couldn’t find a way to stop RJ Barrett. They fell 106-102, dropping their record to 4-2.

The former Duke star now has 51 combined points in Indiana this year, with 25 tonight. The “Maple Mamba” also went 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, where New York as a team shot 44 percent. The Pacers fired 50 three-pointers and hit 19 of them.

“I would’ve liked to see us be more physical at the start of the game and take it to the rim more in the second half,” Head Coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “It was a physical game. But we’ve got to go in and look at the film tonight and pick some things out. The big lesson from tonight was to continue what we do well. Like continue to get paint touches for kick-out threes and head to the free throw line.”

Saturday’s loss continued to prove that the NBA is a battle every night. No matter who’s on the other sideline.

There are going to be bumps along the way for the Pacers, especially as they get fully adjusted to Bjorkgren’s system. But they do have to find a way to limit nights like these as much as possible.

“I think this is a good wake up call for us,” Malcolm Brogdon said. “We didn’t play hard enough tonight and didn’t have the same energy we usually do. We’re going to learn from it.”

Tough break for Brogdon too. He was excellent with 33 points and a 7-for-10 performance from three-point land.

It was clear too that Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks prioritized slowing down Domantas Sabonis. The Indiana big man dropped yet another double-double and has one in every game this season. But he only took eight field goals and finished with 13 points.

With T.J. Warren out indefinitely needing foot surgery, we may have gotten a preview of how his playing time will be dispersed. Justin Holiday played 28 minutes, while Doug McDermott saw 20 minutes of action. Former Butler Bulldog Kelan Martin was on the floor for four minutes.

Next up? A road trip down to NOLA to take on Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday. This will be Indiana’s second away game of the year. They defeated the Chicago Bulls in the Windy City earlier in December.

Time to bounce back.

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