GAME RECAP: Pelicans 124, Pacers 117

Jrue Holiday leads the way with 31 points as New Orleans beat Indiana, 124-117.

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GAME RECAP: Pelicans 124, Pacers 117

Jrue Holiday leads the way with 31 points as New Orleans beat Indiana, 124-117.
Feb 8, 2020  |  00:01

Postgame: Coach McMillan Press Conference - February 8, 2020

February 8, 2020 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan spoke to the media following Indiana's 124-117 loss to the Pelicans on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Feb 8, 2020  |  08:56

McConnell Hits Reverse Layup

T.J. McConnell makes his way inside and scores with the reverse layup.
Feb 8, 2020  |  00:07

Sabonis Owns The Paint On Defense

Domantas Sabonis protects the rack with the blocked shot, then collects the rebound to finish out the play on defense.
Feb 8, 2020  |  00:10

Hickory Halftime: Bob Knight and Gene Keady

Indiana and Purdue University coaching legends, Bob Knight and Gene Keady receive Pacers Hickory Honoree jerseys at halftime.
Feb 8, 2020  |  00:43

Lance Stephenson in Indy to Watch the Pacers and Pelicans

Eddie White talks with Lance Stephenson as he visits Indy to watch the Pacers take on the Pelicans.
Feb 8, 2020  |  01:36

Sabonis Dimes To McDermott

The Pacers move the ball well as Domantas Sabonis drops a pretty dime to Doug McDermott for the finish at the basket.
Feb 8, 2020  |  00:08

Goga Throws It Down

Aaron Holiday runs the pick & roll with Goga Bitadze, leading to flush for the big man.
Feb 8, 2020  |  00:08

Warren Scores Through The Foul

T.J. Warren finishes on a strong take to the basket band gets earns a trip to the line.
Feb 8, 2020  |  00:09

Lamb Calls Glass

Jeremy Lamb beats the shot clock with the bank shot for three.
Feb 8, 2020  |  00:08

Pacers Left Stranded at Closing Time Again

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

The Pacers put the old gang back together again Saturday, a reunion forced by the plan for Victor Oladipo to sit out a game in back-to-back sets.

It wasn't like old times, though.

Going with the starting lineup that had produced wins in 73 percent of its games this season, the Pacers still dropped their fifth straight game with Saturday's 124-117 loss to New Orleans. That streak is the last thing they need while trying to stay in the hunt for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and the first thing that will be remembered if they fail to do so.

Their 31-22 record places them sixth in the Eastern Conference, four games back of the precious fourth position in the standings. For now, though, a long-range viewpoint is practically off-topic. The Pacers just need to figure out a way to win a game. They have two more opportunities — Brooklyn on Monday and Milwaukee on Wednesday — before the All-Star break, both in The Fieldhouse.

They look like a mentally fatigued team. Wisely, however, they haven't cited that as an excuse, fully aware they aren't exactly the only team in the NBA closing in on the break. More relevantly, though, they look a team whipsawed by changes and struggling to regain a groove.

In the previous 11 days they have adjusted to Victor Oladipo's dramatic season debut, then to Oladipo's unique presence in their lineup, then to Oladipo's move into the starting lineup and then, on Saturday, to Oladipo's one-game departure. T.J. Warren, meanwhile, returned from a two-game absence resulting from a concussion.

The bottom line is that the Pacers have yet to go into a game with their intended starting lineup of Oladipo, Warren, Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner. That will happen on Monday, barring an unforeseen circumstance.

"It's an adjustment," said Warren, who hit 9-of-12 shots and scored 22 points. "Guys injured, in and out, and a lot of different lineups throughout the season. But that's no excuse. We've got to come out and just play basketball."

That's tougher to do when you're out of sync, tired, and keeping an eye cocked toward the calendar, but that happens to be where the Pacers are. Each of starters was at least solid against the Pelicans, scoring in double figures, shooting well. This time the reserves, who have been a collective strength most of the season, combined for just 26 points while hitting 2-of-11 3-pointers.

The starters, though, were the ones who failed to close, continuing a recent trend. They played the final 4:51 following a timeout and managed a 108-106 lead at one point. But New Orleans scored 14 of the next 16 points to win for the 15th time in its previous 23 games. That it did so without starting forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, both of whom had ankle sprains, made its victory all them more impressive — and the Pacers' loss all the most depressive.

"These last five games, we're not closing out games and making the plays to win these games," Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said.

Turnovers had been a major issue In some of the previous losses. This time? Lamb had a succinct summary.

"They made shots, we didn't. They got stops, we didn't," he said.

Then Turner broke it down more specifically.

"We're loose defensively and offensively we're a little indecisive," he said. "And we're not rebounding."

Yeah, that also. The Pacers were outrebounded 53-37. The managed just two offensive rebounds, both in the second half, but rather miraculously were only outscored 11-8 on second-chance points.

The Pacers' defensive issue du jour is preventing penetration, and was most evident during the Pelicans' closing sprint. It tied the game at 108 when J.J. Redick beat Lamb on the baseline for a layup. It took a 113-110 lead when Jrue Holiday got into the lane and hit a defended shot over Brogdon. It extended the lead when Lonzo Ball beat Turner off the dribble for a layup.

Holiday punctuated those easy shots with two 3-pointers during the run and added six after-the-fact free throws in the final 27 seconds. He confirmed his status as the most favorable Holiday by finishing with 31 points, 17 in the fourth period. His younger brothers, Justin and Aaron, combined for nine points for the Pacers on 3-of-11 shooting.

The Pacers have had to deal with some hot hands hitting tough shots lately, Jrue Holiday being the latest, but that doesn't excuse everything. The issue nearly leaves McMillan speechless, since he's in position to do little more than emphasize it.

"We just have to work hard at it," he said.

"There are guys in the league who are capable of (scoring against good defense). You just try to get closer and contain them."

McMillan did hint at some changes in the playing rotation, though. After Aaron Holiday had played an ineffective 7 ½ minutes in the first half in which he hit 1-of-5 shots and was called for a technical foul, McMillan went with Edmond Sumner for those minutes in the second. Sumner didn’t score but offered a better defensive option.

“We may have to go into the rotation to get some other guys some opportunities,” he said. “We can’t get over that hump it seems.”

Possible answers for the needed energy injection were within the Pacers’ collective view, but not their grasp. Former Pacer Lance Stephenson watched the game from a front row end zone seat, decked out in white. And Gene Keady and Bob Knight, the famously intense coaches from Purdue and Indiana, respectively, were honored at halftime as part of the Hickory Night celebration.

None of them can help, though. The Pacers are going to have to solve this malaise from within and on the fly. No matter who is available.


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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