This season for Indiana has been a great one thus far. The club currently sits at 33-8, allowing them to lay claim to the best record in the league and the team’s best mid-season record in the last decade and then some. With all the key victories this season it can be easy to look past the defeats — and for Indiana, that likely means the blowouts.
The Pacers have dropped eight games this season by a combined 99 points, losing by a double-digit average. There have been close losses, don’t get me wrong; Indy’s late-game slip at Miami (where they lost by three), the home struggle against Detroit (in a 5-point loss), and even the late-game barnburner at Portland (in which even Paul George’s heroics couldn’t stave off a 4-point loss).
However, it remains clear that the trend for the Pacers is when they lose, they lose big.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
Saturday, Nov. 16 @ Chicago – L 110-94
Indiana was 9-0 heading into that game and seeking their first 10-0 start in franchise history. In Chicago, with an active Derrick Rose and then-Chicago Bull Luol Deng, the Pacers struggled against a surging Bulls team looking to avenge the away-loss at BLF just 10 days earlier. This was the second night of a back-to-back, as the Pacers had just crushed the Bucks at home the previous evening.
Sunday, Dec. 8. @ OKC – L 118-94
Ah, how could we forge? Kevin Durant goes Durantula on Indiana and Russell Westbrook shows no mercy, and Indy gets blown out on the road despite an incredible 32-point performance from Paul George. Similar to the first blowout, this was also the second night of a back-to-back with the Pacers coming off a huge road win in San Antonio. To be frank, nothing was going to cut off Reggie Jackson’s pick-and-roll action that night and Durant was more going to make just about any open jumper he could take.
Wednesday, Jan. 1 @ Toronto – L 95-82
While some may not believe that a 13-point loss on the road is a blowout, from the way the Pacers played that evening it could’ve been another 20+ point loss. Shooting poorly didn’t help things (43% from the field, 35% from 3-point range, and a measly 65% from the line on 20 attempts), but Indiana turned the ball over 22 times and lost the rebounding battle. That night, it was a recipe for another big loss. A note, however; yet again, that loss came as part of the second night of a back-to-back (are we starting to see the theme?), and Toronto was shooting much better than usual.
Wednesday, Jan. 22 @ Phoenix – L 124-100
That brings us to last night’s monstrosity of a game. Indiana put up the necessary points for a win in a normal circumstance, but couldn’t defend the Suns’ quick transition game and surprising defense. Goran Dragic was an amazingly efficient from the field, putting up 21 points on 8/10 shooting. Gerald Green, whose name should ring a bell seeing as Indiana dealt him before the year began, put on quite a clinic scoring 23 points on 6/13 from the field, while Markieff Morris added 20 points, shooting 8/14. For once, this was not the second night of a back-to-back, but it was their 2nd game in 3 nights on the road, coming off a big win over Golden State on Monday.
What exactly is the problem? Why does Indiana lose big like they do? Well it could be attributed to many things.
For one, as mentioned in almost every mini-game summary above, the Pacers lost big when they were playing on the latter end of a back-to-back stretch. The point differential of those games alone is -53 in favor of the Pacers’ opponents. Ouch.
That’s not the only answer either. Indiana has struggled with foul trouble, and especially when the big men Ian Mahinmi and Roy Hibbert get in trouble, Indiana’s defense lacks. A big case-in-point was Wednesday’s pounding vs. the Suns. Hibbert fouled out of the game and Ian finished with 5 fouls. When that happens it’s not likely Indiana makes a major comeback.
Additionally, I reached out to Pacers.com beat writer Scott Agness to console him about the losses, where he had this to say: “Things get tricky on West Coast road trips. The Suns, and particularly Gerald Green, because he was facing his former team, were fired up to show the nation on ESPN what they’ve been able to do in Phoenix. Most, including myself, saw them in rebuild mode before the season. First-year head coach Jeff Hornacek and his team have been terrific.”
Mr. Agness brings up another good point, all of these losses came on the road. The one home game Indiana lost was a tight, but sloppy game against the Detroit Pistons in mid-December. Indiana has kept things under control very well at home, sometimes even blowing their opponents out of the water.
A final point: all of the major losses came in games where at least one member of the opposing team got hot and Indiana simply couldn’t stop them. For Chicago in November, it was a big performance from Luol Deng. At Oklahoma City? Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Toronto? Demar DeRozan and Terrance Ross. Phoenix? Gerald Green and Goran Dragic. In all of these games, opponents put up above-average numbers against a (potentially) fatigued Pacers team.
In no way am I making excuses for Indiana, and in no way am I pardoning losses by such glaring margins. I am, however, attempting to seek an answer for why Indy can’t avoid major blowouts. Is it the fatigue? Maybe. Foul trouble? Possibly. The fact that all big losses came on the road? Probably.
Indiana doesn’t have to play back-to-back games in the Playoffs, but they sure do have to play on the road. We’re only halfway through the season ,and Vogel’s men have proved they can win the biggest of games but can still lose by the biggest of margins.
Topics: How Pacers Lose