The Indiana Pacers are playing their worst basketball in a long time. On Saturday night they battled the Phoenix Suns, who were missing Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, among others. But the Pacers couldn’t capitalize and win.
They were in the game all night. Phoenix and Indiana both struggled to gain control of the duel as there were 16 lead changes. The longest run was only 10. It was a back and forth.
This playstyle suits the team that shoots better from the field, and in this game that was Phoenix. They knocked down 41.8% of their looks compared to Indiana’s 38.3%, which put them better positioned to eventually finish the game.
The Pacers changed their starting lineup that game, bringing TJ McConnell into the opening session. That change helped as the Pacers, who started five, were a +1 for the night, but it meant Indiana’s bench units were weaker or different. The Pacers’ second unit fired on 12/31.
In the end, the Pacers ended the game with a lineup similar to their starting five, but instead had Bennedict Mathurin for Andrew Nembhard. That group made a push and reduced an eight-point Phoenix lead to two, but the Pacers never hit a shot that would have either leveled the game or given them the lead.
“Indiana, today was their second game in a row and they played tight against us,” Sun forward Josh Okogie said after the game. He finished the tournament with 24 points and 10 rebounds and said Phoenix’s early defense set the tone.
The final score was 112-107. It was the seventh straight loss for the Pacers, who were 23-18 at halftime but are now sitting at 23-25. They’re two games under .500 for the first time since going 3-5 on Halloween.
Indiana needed a proper win in the worst way. They’ll be without Star Guard Tyrese Haliburton for at least 10 days or so, so any wins they can get with him in the meantime will come in handy. Tonight they had a chance but couldn’t quite make it.
There were more positives for the Pacers in this game as they kept it close, but their takeaways still show they have things to improve on as they try to end this losing streak.
The Pacers are currently unable to shoot
Indiana shot 36/96 in that game, good for 37.5%. That was the sixth time this season the Pacers have shot under 40% in a game, and they’ve lost all six of those games.
Three of those six trips have come about in the past nine days. The Blue and Golds’ offense has been significantly worse lately, and part of that is due to Haliburton being out. But some of that is down to poor archery, with shots missing closer to the basket.
At the most basic level, when you think about basketball, a team has to take shots to win. The Pacers aren’t shooting right now. You have to find ways to create good looks and blow her mind.
Indiana had too many fouls
The Pacers have committed 29 fouls this game, the third most in a single game this season. It was only the sixth time the Blue and Golds had hacked their opponent more than 26 times in one night. They are 0-6 in these games.
Some of the Pacers’ fouls were the result of the Suns’ relentless attacks. They are expected. Others came after a defensive collapse that forced the Pacers to recover and slow a Phoenix player. These moments shouldn’t happen.
The Suns had 35 free throw attempts that night. Despite only putting down 24, the Pacers’ fouls really hurt their chances in the game.
TJ McConnell had an excellent outing
Less than a week after a career night in Milwaukee, TJ McConnell had another terrific performance for the Pacers. The veteran guard played as a starter for the first time of the season and finished the game with a triple double – he had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
It’s only McConnell’s third triple-double in the NBA and his second with the Pacers. His first with Indiana was actually a triple-double with points, assists and steals. Tonight was only the third time in McConnell’s career that he’d hit 10+ rebounds in a game.
The eight-year-old pro has been one of the Pacers’ best players during his prolonged losing streak. They will need more performances like this from the 30-year-old if they finally want to return to the Victory Column.
The Pacers will look to do just that in their next game, which takes place Tuesday when they host the Chicago Bulls.
- Tyrese Haliburton says he hopes to return for the Indiana Pacers “in early February” from injury. CLICK HERE.
- Report: Goga Bitadze is the Indiana Pacers’ ‘most likely’ big man to be traded this season. CLICK HERE.
- Myles Turner has improved significantly this season. Just ask his former teammates and coaches. CLICK HERE.
- Five reasons the Indiana Pacers lost five games in a row. CLICK HERE.
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