GAME RECAP: Nets 106, Pacers 105
Spencer Dinwiddie scores 21 points in the win vs. Indiana 106-105.
Spencer Dinwiddie scores 21 points in the win vs. Indiana 106-105.
February 10, 2020 - Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and Doug McDermott respond to the 105-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Feb. 10, 2020 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan addresses the media following Indiana's 106-105 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Pacers Struggling to Find Answers
The losses, six in a row now, are becoming more and more difficult to explain. The coach and players pause, shake their heads and search for the right words, but struggle to come up with any answers beyond the obvious need to close out close games.
Which introduces all sorts of issues into the conversation, but no simple analysis other than the need to do better.
"We have to win those games," coach Nate McMillan said after the Pacers' 106-105 loss to Brooklyn at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday. "It's us tonight. It's us again not finishing the game. We had this game. It's a matter of executing at both ends of the floor. We didn't do it. We have to correct it."
The defeat brought the Pacers' longest losing streak since February of 2017, when they dropped six in a row heading into the All-Star break. It also was their fifth consecutive home loss, something that hadn't occurred since January-February of 2008. This team now is in danger of taking a seven-game losing streak into the break unless it can find a way to beat Milwaukee, which will bring a league-best 46-7 record to the Fieldhouse on Wednesday.
This latest loss came to a Brooklyn team that had lost nine of its 10 previous games on the road and once seemed too far back in the standings for the Pacers to worry about. But the Pacers are now closer to the 24-28 Nets in sixth place in the Eastern Conference than they are to Boston in third. For the moment, at least, it's not about gaining homecourt advantage for the first round of the playoffs. It's simply about winning a game.
This one was in a sense Page 1 of the third chapter of the Pacers' season. There was the one about playing without Victor Oladipo and then one about learning to play with Oladipo after his year-long layoff. Now it's about the intended starting lineup finally getting together in the 53rd game of the season and seeking chemistry.
Despite the new look the game looked familiar, offering a concise and painful reflection of the Pacers' recent tendencies, both good and bad.
- They were outrebounded 53-40, including 14-6 on the offensive board, and were outscored on second-chance points 15-6.
- They were outscored by 15 points from behind the 3-point line. Although they reached their goal of 30 3-point attempts, they hit only seven — 23 percent.
- They got to the foul line for just 11 attempts, hitting eight, while Brooklyn scored 24 points from the line.
- They committed only six turnovers.
- They hit 61 percent of their two-point field goal attempts.
- Domantas Sabonis had another outstanding game with his fourth triple-double of the season, and the NBA's first this season without a turnover. He became the fourth player in franchise history to record at least four and is one short of Lance Stephenson's record of five in the 2013-14 season.
The worst trend of all, though, is the continued inability to close out a close game. A strength earlier in the season, it has become a haunting refrain. They led the Nets 103-99 with 1:24 remaining and still found ways to lose.
Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images
They had a chance to go up six points, but Malcolm Brogdon missed a seven-foot floater. Joe Harris, who scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half, then beat Justin Holiday off the dribble for a layup after Holiday had shut him down at the 3-point line. Oladipo missed a 3-point attempt off a screen, then Harris came back with a wide-open 3-pointer off a screen.
"There was definitely a miscommunication on that," McMillan said.
Sabonis' driving layup got the lead back with 10.1 seconds left, but Spencer Dinwiddie — who had made just 3-of-14 shots to that point — was able to hit a mid-range step-back jumper over Brogdon for what turned out to be the game-winning basket.
The Pacers had 3.8 seconds left to get one of their own. Brooklyn had a foul to give and used it on Oladipo, who hit a mid-range jumper after the whistle blew. That left 2.7 seconds and Brogdon wound up flinging an off-balance 3-point shot in heavy traffic that had no chance.
McMillan had a play called in the timeout for such an occurrence but said the Nets "busted that up."
The Pacers have been outscored in the fourth quarter of each game in their losing streak but have been well-positioned to win each one in the final few minutes.
They led New Orleans on Saturday, 108-106, with 3:26 left.
They trailed Toronto the previous night, 101-99, with 6:47 left.
They led Toronto two nights before that, 118-108, with 2:27 left.
They trailed Dallas two nights before that, 99-96, with 5:09 left.
They trailed New York two nights before that, 82-80, with 3:39 left.
"It has a little bit to do with everything," said Oladipo, who scored 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting against the Nets and is averaging 10.8 points on 29.5 percent shooting in his six games.
"Sometimes we might not execute, sometimes we might not make shots, sometimes we might not get stops. But I think tonight it was a little bit of everything...what can you do? You can't go back and change it, you just have to look forward and move forward."
The players got together to talk some things out following their morning shootaround in what Doug McDermott termed "a great conversation." But while the overall chemistry and energy seemed better than in most of the previous losses, it didn't matter in the final two minutes.
There wasn't as much conversation among the players afterward. The locker room cleared quickly and was the quietest it's been all season.
"We were all pissed off," McDermott said. "We all hate losing. We have a bunch of competitors. We thought there were a lot of positive things tonight. We thought we played pretty well for most of the game. It comes down to closing it out."
One other thing remained consistent on Wednesday, however: The optimistic viewpoint that these losses are an inevitable adjustment process related to Oladipo's return and won't last long.
McDermott said the players "will thrive on adversity." Sabonis said "things aren't as bad as people seem to say." Oladipo said the players are thinking too much because they haven't grown accustomed to playing with one another and recalled past losing streaks such as the five-gamer that ended December of 2017 and bled into 2018, a season in which the Pacers won 48 games.
"We figured it out then and we'll figure it out now," he said.
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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.
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