GAME RECAP: Rockets 98, Pacers 94

James Harden scored 28 points while Chris Paul gifted 13 assists as the Rockets hold on to beat the Pacers 98-94. Victor Oladipo poured in 28 points for Indiana in the loss.

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GAME RECAP: Rockets 98, Pacers 94

James Harden scored 28 points while Chris Paul gifted 13 assists as the Rockets hold on to beat the Pacers 98-94. Victor Oladipo poured in 28 points for Indiana in the loss.
Nov 5, 2018  |  00:00

Postgame Wrap Up: Pacers-Rockets - Nov. 5, 2018

November 5, 2018 - After a night in which the Pacers struggled at the free throw line, Pacers.com reporter Katie Hargitt got reactions from the Pacers on their 98-94 loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Nov 5, 2018  |  01:27

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - Nov. 5, 2018

November 5, 2018 - Victor Oladipo, Darren Collison, and Myles Turner talk about what went wrong during their tough loss at home against Houston.
Nov 5, 2018  |  01:22

Postgame: McMillan Press Conference - Nov. 5, 2018

November 5, 2018 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan talked to the media following Indiana's 98-94 loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Nov 5, 2018  |  06:10

Domas Cleans Up The Miss

November 05, 2018: Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Nov 5, 2018  |  05:06

Oladipo Gets Indy Started

November 05, 2018: Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Nov 5, 2018  |  04:17

Collison Creates On Both Ends

November 05, 2018: Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Nov 5, 2018  |  02:27

Cory Finds Domas Underneath

November 05, 2018: Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Nov 5, 2018  |  04:42

Bojan Pulls Up For Three

November 05, 2018: Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Nov 5, 2018  |  04:37

Domas Earns The And-One

November 05, 2018: Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Nov 5, 2018  |  02:24

Double Digits Not Enough for Pacers

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Here's some incredibly insightful commentary: the Pacers lost to Houston Monday because they didn't score enough points.

They had 94 to be exact, which wasn't enough to supplement a strong defensive effort that limited the high-octane Rockets to 98, six below their average. Fact is, with the emphasis on limiting contact with hands to enable more scoring in today's NBA, anything below 100 is flirting with danger. Eleven games into the season, the Pacers are 0-3 when scoring in the 90's and 7-1 when surpassing 100.

"It's going to be tough to beat anybody in this league scoring 90 points," coach Nate McMillan said following the loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which ended a modest three-game winning streak.

"We have to get to our tempo, we have to push the ball, we have to play faster. Games played in the 90's, I think they're gone."

What he really meant to say was winning games that are played in the 90's are a thing of the past, as the Pacers are proving amid their 7-4 start. There are plenty of ways to score in mere double digits, and they gave a few examples against Houston.

Miss free throws.

Fail to score in transition or move the ball consistently in the halfcourt offense.

Neglect favorable mismatches.

The Pacers drew enough fouls to attempt 30 free throws, but hit just 20 of them. Those 10 points left at the line would have helped immensely in their four-point defeat. It's been an on-and-off-again problem since they hit just 7-of-13 foul shots in the season opener, mostly on. They entered the game 27th in the league in free throw percentage, and dropped their percentage to .704.

They hit just 7-of-13 foul shots in the third period. And then, when Darren Collison went to the line with 5.9 seconds remaining and the Pacers trailing by three, and needing to hit the first and perhaps miss the second intentionally, he did the opposite: missed the first and hit the second.

Free throw woes present a dilemma for coaches when shooters are underachieving, as the Pacers' are. It becomes a mental block if it goes on for long, so talking about it only threatens to make matters worse.

"We'll spend even more time on them tomorrow," McMillan said. "We want to be the aggressors and get to the line, and we leave 10 free throws out there tonight. We're a much better shooting team than that."

They were last season, anyway, when they shot 78 percent overall. They're mostly the same group of players now, and most of the offseason changes brought in improved shooters. The at least have a role model for free throw rehab in Victor Oladipo, who led the Pacers with 28 points on Monday. He was hitting just 55 percent of his season's foul shots a week ago, but has hit all 16 over the past three games.

"It's all mental," he said. "Just go up there and make it.

"That's the beauty of hard work. That's the beauty of basketball. You need to work on something, you go work on it. That's what we need to do."

Tempo also impacts scoring, and the Pacers didn't have enough of it on Monday. They limited the Rockets to 44 percent shooting but only scored eight fastbreak points. They didn't have enough pace in the halfcourt offense, either.

Victor Oladipo

Photo Credit: Jessica Hoffman

Oladipo took the offense into his capable hands much of the game, attempting 21 field goals and hitting 11. Nobody else got up more than nine, though. So while Oladipo continued his incredible run of big shot-making by scoring eight points on two 3-pointers and a 21-footer in the final 1:26, the lack of balance tilted the Pacers' offense in the wrong direction. Only two starters and only four players in all reached double figures.

Houston switched on screens and often allowed guards to defend the Pacers' bigs, but that advantage wasn't exploited often enough to satisfy McMillan.

"The way Houston pays you have to be really patient with your offense," he said. "They give you matchups with all their switching. I thought we were frantic at the beginning of the game. We had some turnovers early. We missed some layups, (were) rushing at times. You have to be really patient, space the floor, let everything clear and attack your matchups."

Officiating factored into the outcome as well, although to what degree would be debatable. The Pacers were called for nine fewer fouls than Houston and got up 14 more free throws, a difference at least partly the result of Houston taking 47 3-point shots. McMillan picked up the first technical foul of the season for any Pacers player or coach with 4:38 left because he considered the officiating to be woefully inconsistent with regard to contact allowed.

The NBA wants less of it this season, and the emphasis has clearly increased scoring, but the officials don't want to stop the game by calling a foul every trip downcourt. McMillan wonders if maybe they should for a while.

"It's going to be hard for the officials to be consistent with the emphasis on touching," he said. "I thought there was a lot of touching and grabbing and contact throughout the game.

"If we're going to emphasize these rules, we have to call it every time. If that's what we want to do in the sense of getting guys' hands off, we have to call it every single time. It may be an ugly game for a few times, but we have to be consistent with that."

Oladipo felt victimized by inconsistency as well. He was called for a couple of fouls on last season's league MVP, James Harden, that the overheard replay exposed as incorrect. Oladipo flawlessly defended Hardin on a breakaway layup attempt with 2:06 left in the second quarter by jumping with him but avoiding contact. Harden missed, but Oladipo was called for a foul by referee Marc Davis, a judgement lustily booed within The Fieldhouse.

Oladipo also was called for a foul when he appeared to defend Harden’s missed field goal attempt in the third period without making contact. Harden’s free throws were the only two of the period for the Rockets, but that didn’t soothe Oladipo’s feelings on the matter.

From the perspective in the Pacers' locker room, it was simply a matter of an established mega-star getting a favorable whistle.

Asked his opinion of the whistles as they applied to him, Oladipo let out a loud laugh.

"You all know what it is," he said. "I don't need to comment on it. Anybody can see it. It is what it is. You just have to keep playing, keep fighting, keep getting better."

Not to mention start shooting better.


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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