As of Tuesday of this week, the Indiana Pacers were 12-8 and had yet to lose a game by 20 points this season. Three days later, blue and gold are 12-10, and both losses in that span were more than 20 points. Indiana is playing its worst basketball of the season.
On Friday night, the Utah Jazz destroyed the Pacers in Salt Lake City. It was the Pacers’ fourth loss in six games, and their defense really struggled during that period. They’ve conceded 114 or more points in each of their last half-dozen games — not once during their five-game winning streak in mid-November.
“We stayed calm and won” said the jazz center Walker Kessler after the game on AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain. The Pacers weren’t so composed, turning the ball 18 times and fouling Utah an amazing 35 times.
The Jazz had an answer for every Pacers run. Indiana extended the lead to 7 by 2:21 in the first quarter, but Utah led by 15 points early in the second frame. The Pacers erased that lead and leveled the game in the second quarter, only to lose by 16 at halftime. After a 9-0 run to cut the lead to ten in the third quarter, the Jazz went off on their own, leading by 20 to close the frame. The Pacers put runs together, but none of them were strong enough.
The final result was 139-119. Utah hit 32 free throws and 15 three-pointers, which is a recipe for success. Unless you’re the Pacers. Then it’s a recipe for disaster. A struggling Pacers team takes a lot from an ugly game.
The Pacers defense stinks right now.
Indiana has conceded 356 points in the paint in their last six games. That’s an average of 59.3 per game. Only three teams in the NBA concede more than an average of 54 paint points per night, and 59.3 would be bottom of the league at about three whole points per game.
The Pacers can’t keep teams off the rim. They struggle to keep guards in front of them and defend themselves in the pick and roll. Rudy Gobert, Ivica Zubac and now Kessler have done some damage on the inside because their matchup is usually gone to stop a guard.
At the same time, Russell Westbrook, De’Aaron Fox, D’Angelo Russell, and Ben Simmons all had strong stat nights due to weak attack defenses on them. The Pacers have fallen from 13th to 19th in defensive standings this week, slipping at that end of the rank. You need to start defending yourself better to get back on track.
Tyrese Haliburton had a night off.
Haliburton had their fifth-worst scoring game of the season with 14 points against Utah. He shot 5/16 and was a -12 on the night. But none of that is why it felt like Haliburton had a night off.
The Pacers’ starting point guard had just four assists, his lowest total of the season. It was only his third time that he had fewer than eight assists this year and the blue and gold have lost all three of those games. The Jazz had a good game plan to slow him down.
Haliburton was a game decision with groin pain, so it’s unclear how much that injury might have impacted his performance. But he didn’t play at his usual level, and neither did the Pacers as a team.
Andrew Nembhard continues to impress.
While most Pacers players had a night to remember, rookie point guard Andrew Nembhard continued his impressive streak of play.
The 31st overall pick of the 2022 NBA draft ended with 13 points and 10 assists, meaning he finished with his first double-double of his career. He had six assists alone to Myles Turner and dished out half a dozen dimes in the second half. Nembhard’s passing was considered one of his better skills in entering the NBA, and he showed why in this game.
Since returning from injury on Monday, Nembhard has effectively defended LeBron James, struck a game to win against the Lakers, rejoined the starting XI and notched a double-double. He was a bright spot for the blue and golds during their recent poor play.
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- Inside Tyrese Haliburton’s return to Sacramento and the emotions behind the game. CLICK HERE.
- Report: Los Angeles Clippers are interested in Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner. CLICK HERE.
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