Another close loss hurts the Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings

Following OT Loss vs. Chicago, the Pacers have dropped another game by three points or less. The close losses are piling up.

Dallas Mavericks v Indiana Pacers
Dallas Mavericks v Indiana Pacers / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

After Wednesday night's overtime loss against the Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers are now 37-30 and sixth in the Eastern Conference. This would put them in the playoffs as of now, but the standings change nightly. They're still just a half-game away from being stuck in the play-in.

The Pacers have lost five games this season by three points or less and another four games by either four or five points. If Indiana had won six of those nine games, they would be the second seed in the standings only behind front-runner, Boston.

How are the Pacers squandering so many close games?

Three of those game in the month of November and within the first 15 games for Indiana. All three were home losses against teams that are not in the playoff picture: Charlotte, Toronto, and Portland.

On November 4th, Gordon Hayward scored 23 points and Terry Rozier (both now departed) scored 22 points. The leading scorer for the Hornets was their center, Mark Williams, with 23 points.

Three or more players scored more than 20 points and seven players had at least 10 points against the Pacers. Indiana's defense failed to contain the majority of their opponent's starters from putting the ball through the hoop.

It happened again eight games later at home when Toronto showed up. Pascal Siakam (now with the Pacers) scored 36 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors. His efforts were supported by then-teammates Dennis Schroeder with 26 points and Scottie Barnes with 20 points and 12 rebounds himself.

Once more, before the end of November, the Pacers struggled to stop a powerful starting lineup of lesser opponents. When Portland came to visit, Jerami Grant scored 34 points.

His production was contagious as Deandre Ayton tallied 22 points and 13 rebounds while former Pacer Malcolm Brogdon had 24 points. Combined, the trio went 16 for 17 from the free-throw line. Going into 2024, the same trend existed for close losses due to defensive deficiencies.

It wasn't until two months later when the Pacers traveled to Portland for a rematch that it happened again. On the Pacers' debut for Siakam and Tyrese Haliburton's early return from injury, the Trail Blazers bested Indiana again by five points or less.

In this game, Grant had 37 points and Brogdon had 30 points. Both players combined for 18-21 from the charity stripe in a 118-115 defeat.

Four days later, the Pacers suffered another tight-knit loss this time by the defending champions, Denver Nuggets. The same trend continued as multiple starters scored big against Indiana to walk away with a narrow victory.

In the 114-109 squander, Nikola Jokic tallied 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Jamal Murray found the same hot streak on the floor as he netted 31 points as well with eight rebounds and seven assists.

Though the teams have traded some big wins (and losses) between each other, Boston won a five-point game at the end of January. The stat line of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Derrick White helped the Celtics in this one.

Tatum scored the most with 30 points while Brown had 25 points and White had 24 points. Indiana could not prevent their opponent's starting lineup from having big games against them.

Since February, it has only gotten worse. The Pacers lost by four points to open that month when Jalen Brunson had 40 points for New York. The Knicks, who like the Celtics are above the Pacers in the standings, had 60 team rebounds in the victory over Indiana. They had three starters with at least 12 rebounds, too.

A week ago, the Pacers lost by two points when they host one of the Western Conference's best teams, Minnesota. Anthony Edwards lit up the scoreboard with 44 points.

This recent one hurts big for the Pacers. Losing to Chicago by three points, in overtime, carried that same burden and theme of why Indiana is losing close games. The Pacers struggle heavily against big scoring. DeMar DeRozan boasted 46 points in the game including the buzzer beater in the fourth quarter to extend the contest.

As another guest leaves Indiana with a close win, the Pacers are lower in the Eastern Conference standings than they would like. If Indiana could have had a better result in six of these nine contests, they would be in control of the second seed.

Next. Next story. Pacers final month stock watch: Two risers, one faller. dark

Instead, the quest for the Pacers to end their four-year playoff drought gets a bit tougher. Not only does Indiana need more wins, but they also need to stop losing the small marginal losses.