GAME RECAP: Mavericks 98, Pacers 94

Dirk Nowitzki led the charge for the Mavericks as he scores 15 points and grabs seven rebounds in the 98-94 victory over the Pacers.

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GAME RECAP: Mavericks 98, Pacers 94

Dirk Nowitzki led the charge for the Mavericks as he scores 15 points and grabs seven rebounds in the 98-94 victory over the Pacers.
Dec 27, 2017  |  02:07

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - Dec. 27, 2017

December 27, 2017 - Pacers players Darren Collison, Lance Stephenson, and Domantas Sabonis discussed Indiana's 98-94 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Dec 27, 2017  |  02:39

Postgame: McMillan Press Conference - Dec. 27, 2017

Dec. 27, 2017 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan speaks with the media following Indiana's 98-94 loss to Dallas at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Video courtesy of FOX Sports Indiana)
Dec 27, 2017  |  03:21

Lance Ties it Up

December 27, 2017: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 27, 2017  |  09:06

Lance With the Tough Finish

December 27, 2017: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 27, 2017  |  08:16

Sabonis Throws it Down

December 27, 2017: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 27, 2017  |  07:41

Collison Hits the Tough Shot and Draws the Foul

December 27, 2017: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 27, 2017  |  07:16

Turner Block Turns Into Lance Layup

December 27, 2017: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 27, 2017  |  06:23

Wilkins Gets A Surprise

Damien Wilkins gets a surprise during a timeout in the game has the gender of his unborn child is revealed with the help of the Pacers staff and his fiance.
Dec 27, 2017  |  02:10

Collison's Baseline And-One

December 27, 2017 - Lance Stephenson makes the nice dish to a cutting Darren Collison, who converts the tough reverse layup while drawing a foul.
Dec 27, 2017  |  05:45

Joseph Finds Collison for the 3

December 27, 2017: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 27, 2017  |  05:25

Joseph Spins to the Rim

December 27, 2017: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 27, 2017  |  04:27

Bojan Finds Thad for the Layup

December 27, 2017: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 27, 2017  |  03:59

Lance Buries the 3

December 27, 2017: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 27, 2017  |  03:26

Turner Off the Pick and Pop

December 27, 2017: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 27, 2017  |  02:57

Victor-less Pacers Can't Find Path to Victory

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

As soon as Nate McMillan had finished talking with the players, Lance Stephenson headed straight for the video room, to conduct a quick research project.

Had that crucial turnover with 28.8 seconds left in the Pacers' 98-94 loss to Dallas been his fault, or was Myles Turner to blame, as he angrily suspected at the time?

Stephenson was still angry after viewing the clip, but only at himself.

"That was my fault," he said. "I was supposed to wait for the screen from Myles, and I didn't wait."

The result of Stephenson's impatience was Wes Matthews poking the ball loose, resulting in a breakaway dunk for Dennis Smith Jr. that gave the Mavericks a three-point lead. The Pacers called timeout with 25.2 seconds left, but flailed around for a while before settling for Darren Collison's too-long 3-pointer that barely caught the front rim.

Stephenson

The Pacers played Wednesday without leading scorer Victor Oladipo, who sat out the game with a sore right knee, but they also played without tempo and execution. They failed to score 95 points for just the second time all season — the first one coming 24 hours earlier in their 107-83 loss at Detroit — because they didn't run to get easy points in transition and lacked patience and movement in their halfcourt offense.

Their three fastbreak points and 10 free throw attempts were damning evidence of that.

The loss of Oladipo was significant, of course. His 24.9-point scoring average left a big hole to fill, and his status as a proven closer was even more difficult to replace. Still, the Pacers suffered enough self-inflicted wounds — Stephenson's turnover being representative — to make it difficult to offer much pity.

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"They established a tempo and we played at their tempo the entire game," McMillan said.

Slow starts have been a primary issue for the Pacers recently, never more dramatically so than in Tuesday's loss in Detroit, when they trailed by 21 points after the first period. But with Stephenson replacing Oladipo in the starting lineup, the out-of-the-blocks energy ramped up and they took a 29-22 lead after the first quarter. Their offense gradually slowed to a crawl, however. They scored just 40 points in the second half and missed 10 of their final 12 shots, which was little wonder given the low quality of most of them.

Stephenson, late turnover aside, filled in nicely for Oladipo with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, 15 rebounds, five assists, and two steals. He appeared headed for a triple-double at halftime with eight points, six rebounds, and five assists, but had no assists in the second half. Not because he stopped passing the ball, but because the offense became a stagnant pond of increasingly futile quick shots and one-on-one efforts.

Stephenson drove into the lane, drew contact, and hit a shot in the lane off one foot to give the Pacers a 90-84 lead with five minutes left, but the Pacers scored just four points the rest of the game. Many of their remaining shots were cringe-worthy:

Myles Turner, matched up against shorter defenders throughout the game, was thrown the ball to try to exploit a mismatch on the next possession, but failed to hit the rim on an awkward turnaround shot from eight feet. Stephenson rebounded, but missed a rushed 13-footer to beat the shot clock.

Collison later missed a 19-foot pullup shot, and still later faked and ducked under a defender from 15 feet. Turner followed with another awkward turnaround shot, from 10 feet, in the lane, Stephenson with a missed 3-pointer early in the shot clock, then Turner with a missed left-handed layup off a post move on the right block.

Bojan Bogdanovic interrupted with a 15-footer that got the Pacers within two points with 1:46 remaining, but he missed a step-back 27-footer on the next possession with the clock running low. Stephenson fought for the rebound and the Pacers called timeout, out of which Stephenson hit a sweeping left-handed layup to tie the game with 53.9 seconds left.

The Pacers could have taken the lead after Harrison Barnes hit one-of-two foul shots for Dallas, but Stephenson committed his mea culpa turnover on the next possession when Matthews reached in and tapped the ball loose.

"He went a little early, so I felt comfortable taking a stab at it and the opportunity presented itself...and off to the races we went," Matthews said.

Said Stephenson: "Our guys were rushing, I was rushing. We're used to Victor Oladipo (taking over in that situation), so none of our guys were used to that moment."

The Mavericks contained the Pacers' offense by switching all screens except when a center picked for a point guard. They switched those as well in the last five minutes. The combination of their strategy and hustle confused the Pacers, who were unable to exploit their size advantage or their 3-point shot-makers.

McMillan said it was nothing his team hasn't seen before.

"We didn't execute," he said. "We had matchups in the post with Myles that we didn't capitalize off of. We had matchups on the perimeter, where I thought we settled against those bigs and we didn't attack the basket."

More and more opponents are assigning a smaller defender to Turner, practically daring him to attempt a post-up shot, and often getting away with it. He remains far more comfortable shooting jumpers from the perimeter.

"That's part of his growth this year," McMillan said of Turner's post-up game. "We have to take advantage of that. We need to get him the ball and he needs to develop that and grow with teams guarding him like that."

The postgame locker room was as quiet as it's been all season, appropriate for what might have been the most disappointing loss of the season. The Pacers had a sellout holiday audience on hand to watch them play one of the league's weaker teams, one that was also completing a back-to-back set. They not only failed to capitalize, they lost for the fourth time in their last five home games, and had to go overtime with Brooklyn for the lone victory.

It's not how they wanted to spend the month, which offered the most favorable schedule of the season. They play a much-improved Bulls team in Chicago on Friday and then close out the year at home with Minnesota, which improved to 22-13 on Wednesday. At 19-16, they're still ahead of the pace anyone projected for them, but the margin for squandered opportunities is shrinking.

All they can do now is hope to learn a lesson from the losses — and for Oladipo to return soon.


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