Identifying the Indiana Pacers’ biggest problem this season

Domantas Sabonis - Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Domantas Sabonis - Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers have been outscored during the fourth quarter in four of their six games this season.

While the Pacers have successfully started the season 4-2, there is still a lot this club can work on if they want to make a statement in the Eastern Conference. If there is one thing this team urgently needs to figure out, it is the fourth quarter. This seemingly Achilles’ heel is a problem for two reasons.

The first is the obvious reality that the Pacers will lose close games if they cannot keep up with their opponent. The second is the stark contrast between the seemingly invincible Pacers during the third quarter compared to the same team limping through the fourth quarter.

Going into tonight’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, there is a major divide between the fourth quarter and the third quarter. Whereas the Pacers have been outscored four of their last six fourth quarters, the team has outscored their opponent in five of the six third quarters. On average, the Pacers put in an extra 10.8 points per third quarter. In the fourth quarter, they give up a free 4.2 points per game to the other team.

These scoring woes were a tremendous factor in the team’s loss to the Celtics on Dec. 29, getting outscored by 16 points in the fourth quarter and giving up a 17-point lead to lose the game 116 – 111. In the team’s loss to the Knicks, they were worryingly beat in both the third (by one point) and fourth quarter (by four points). These five points were ultimately the difference in winning or losing.

There are several plausible explanations as to what is going on. The easiest explanation is the lack of fitness. The Pacers, along with most of the NBA, conducted most of the preseason through video calls. The team might need time to develop the stamina to make it through full games.

Alternatively, while Coach Bjorkgren has done a great job making halftime adjustments, but he is still a rookie coach and needs more experience to master the art of winning games. Another factor has been fouls. The Pacers’ have played an aggressive style of basketball and wracked up plenty of fouls. Sabonis fouled out in the game against the Bulls, T.J. Warren fouled out in the second game against the Celtics, and Myles Turner fouled out against the Cavaliers.

If the Pacers starters consistently find themselves facing foul trouble as they have so far, the Pacers will be at a disadvantage during fourth quarters.

Whatever the reason for Indiana’s fourth-quarter woes, they need to work it out or risk facing some heartbreaking losses against some tough opponents later this season.

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