GAME RECAP: Pacers 123, Nets 119

The Indianapolis Pacers squeaked by the Brooklyn Nets 123-119 in an overtime thriller.

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GAME RECAP: Pacers 123, Nets 119

The Indianapolis Pacers squeaked by the Brooklyn Nets 123-119 in an overtime thriller.
Dec 23, 2017  |  01:45

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - Dec. 23, 2017

Dec. 23, 2017 - Victor Oladipo, Lance Stephenson and Myles Turner share their thoughts after a 123-119 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
Dec 23, 2017  |  02:50

Postgame: McMillan Press Conference - Dec. 23, 2017

Dec. 23, 2017 - Following Indiana's impressive come-from-behind 123-119 overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan spoke to the media.
Dec 23, 2017  |  06:25

Turner Delivers the Hammer

December 23, 2017: Brooklyn Nets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 23, 2017  |  04:07

Stephenson and Sabonis Share the Rock

December 23, 2017: Brooklyn Nets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 23, 2017  |  02:39

Sabonis Thunders Down the Lane

December 23, 2017: Brooklyn Nets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 23, 2017  |  01:51

Oladipo Scores on the Run

December 23, 2017: Brooklyn Nets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 23, 2017  |  00:47

Turner Cans a Triple

December 23, 2017: Brooklyn Nets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 23, 2017  |  00:29

Leaf Gets the Putback

December 23, 2017: Brooklyn Nets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 23, 2017  |  01:34

Oladipo Hits the Stepback

December 23, 2017: Brooklyn Nets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 23, 2017  |  01:10

Collison Gets it to Fall

December 23, 2017: Brooklyn Nets vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 23, 2017  |  02:58

Pacers Turn Another Mountain into a Molehill

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Maybe they can start calling their deficits, the way Muhammad Ali used to call rounds when his opponent would fall.

Seventeen points? Nineteen? Twenty-two?

No margin seems too great for the Pacers to overcome — at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, anyway — as they proved again Saturday in their 123-119 overtime victory over Brooklyn. They are drama kings, seemingly bent on thrilling the home fans by digging a hole and then climbing out just in the nick of time.

Seventeen points? Nineteen? Twenty-two?

The Pacers had overcome those deficits already this season. This time it happened to be a 19-point challenge again, which the Nets built late in the second quarter. The Pacers caught up in the fourth, and led by as many as nine points before the midway point of the period. But that would have been too easy, so, they found ways to let the Nets back in the game and force an overtime, during which they refocused and took the victory.

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It's good entertainment, in the way a young tightrope walker is entertaining. But the Pacers have proven they're capable of slipping.

The big picture is what counts most. The Pacers are 19-14 and alone in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, a pace well beyond all preseason projections. They could, if they were inclined, answer any and all complaints by silently pointing a finger toward the standings. But even coach Nate McMillan seemed as dazed as he was pleased with the latest victory.

Another loss, which very nearly occurred, would have been their fourth straight at home, and irrefutable evidence the Houdini act had worn thin.

"I don't know what's happening," McMillan said. "It's a different team in the second half."

Saturday's victory was the fifth of the season in which the Pacers have overcome a double-figure deficit to win. But they've also lost two games in which they were down more than 10 points and came back to lead — and that doesn't include the loss to Oklahoma City, when they trailed by 11 points in the fourth quarter, got within one, and lost by five.

Two such games could be a coincidence, three could be the hint of a trend, but when it gets beyond five it's just who you are. And nobody has an explanation. They know in the literal sense why they fall so far behind — lack of ball movement, soft defense — but they simply shrug when asked why they allow those things to happen. Over and over again.

"I don't know," said Victor Oladipo, who once again was the primary escape artist with 38 points.

Too comfortable at home?

"I think we're less comfortable at home than on the road," he said. "I think we're better on the road than at home."

Lance Stephenson?

"I have no idea."

Myles Turner?

"We just have to want it more. At times it seemed they wanted it more than us."

McMillan blamed the home fans. Not blamed them as if it were their fault, but in the sense his players want to please the fans so badly they get forget about the dirty work of winning basketball. It's no coincidence, McMillan believes, all these mountain-climbing expeditions come at home rather than the road.

"I think we get excited playing in front of our fan base and we all want to entertain," McMillan said. "You've got to play the game the way we played the second half. We moved the ball, everybody got involved, we defended...it's good to be home, but we have to play the game the right way."

But then again, this is the season for giving, and the Pacers are giving plenty. Ulcers, perhaps, but also thrills and chills beyond expectations — starting with Oladipo.

The Pacers threatened another Boston-like collapse when Cory Joseph was called for fouling Spencer Dinwiddie's 3-point shot from the left corner, in front of the Nets' bench. Dinwiddie, who scored a career-high 26 points, hit all three free throws to tie the game with 19.9 seconds left.

"I've been in that position a lot in my career and I've never made that mistake," said Joseph, who was solid off the bench with six points, four assists, no turnovers and solid defense.

"I thought I was straight up. He initiated the contact with my hand by turning his elbow. It was a smart play by him and he got the call."

The Pacers put the ball in Oladipo's capable hands to win the game, setting him up to go one-on-one with Brooklyn's best defender, DeMarre Carroll. Oladipo dribbled down the clock, then pulled up for a 3-point shot that banged off the back of the rim.

"You're in the penalty, I prefer you drive and attack and get to the basket, put pressure on the player and the officials," McMillan said. "That's not the shot we wanted."

"I felt like I was open," Oladipo said. "I thought he was on his heels a little bit. Just rose up and shot it with confidence. I probably could have got to the hole. Whatever you do, be decisive. If I could do it again I might go to the hole, who knows? Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don't."

Oladipo, however, secured the victory in overtime by hitting all six free throws, and hitting all 10 for the game, thus numbing the memory of earlier games when he struggled to make crucial foul shots. He also played more than 42 minutes without a turnover. Darren Collison played 38 error-free minutes, meaning the Pacers' starting backcourt finished with 15 assists and no turnovers in more than 80 minutes.

Turner had highlights as well, finishing with 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting, nine rebounds and six blocked shots, most of them at crucial moments. Guilty of settling for jumpers in the first half, he attacked the basket more often after halftime, hitting all five of his field goal attempts.

Stephenson hit just 4-of-12 shots and was the opposite of the starting backcourt with two turnovers and no assists. But he made one of the game's biggest plays midway through the fourth quarter by stripping the ball from Carroll in the Nets' halfcourt, driving hard for the basket, faking a behind-the-back pass, hitting a hanging layup right of the basket, getting dumped to the floor and rising to convert a three-point play that gave the Pacers a nine-point lead.

"That was crazy, did you see that?" Oladipo said to a reporter who brought it up.

Oladipo has been crazy, too — crazy-good. Saturday's performance further solidified the legitimacy of his All-Star candidacy, the reason fans were chanting "MVP" when he went to the foul line late in the game and the explanation for why The Fieldhouse gift shop keeps running out of his jersey.

"He is playing elite, elite basketball," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "He's one of the best players in the league right now."

And the Pacers are one of the best teams in the conference. Which is saying something, given their exasperating faults.

"We'll figure it out," Oladipo said. "It's a long season."


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