For much of Wednesday night, the Pacers looked on their way to sweeping their season series with the Miami Heat. Indiana led for most of the game and had a 15-point lead in the third quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
But the Heat (24-24) surged ahead in the fourth quarter and held the Pacers scoreless for over six minutes down the stretch to hand Indiana (21-25) a 92-87 defeat, avenging a pair of losses to the Blue & Gold in Miami on March 19 and 21.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Duncan Robinson gave Miami a 79-78 lead with 7:44 to play, the visitors' first lead since the first quarter.
The two teams traded the lead four more times over the next two minutes, but two straight baskets by Jimmy Butler and a Robinson lay-in eventually allowed Miami to create a little separation, pushing the Heat's lead to 87-82 with 4:21 to play.
Both teams endured prolonged droughts from there. Neither team scored again until Bam Adebayo's jumper with 1:06 remaining. Caris LeVert's layup with 41.7 seconds left gave the Pacers their first field goal since the 6:49 mark, but that proved to be too little too late.
"I just think we were out of rhythm," Pacers center Myles Turner said of the late-game drought. "That defense is designed to disrupt offenses and the flow of our game and it did that. We didn't get the shots we wanted, we didn't get the breaks we wanted."
Turner led Indiana with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting (3-of-6 from 3-point range), six rebounds, and three blocks. LeVert added 14 points and six assists, while Doug McDermott scored 14 off the bench on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Pacers' 87 points marked their lowest total in a game this season.
"Their style of play, they have games like that," Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren said. "I was okay (with it). I thought it was sloppy throughout and kind of a grind-out game for most of the night."
Turner got the Pacers' offense started on Wednesday, scoring three early buckets in the paint and then knocking down a 3-pointer in his first shift. The Heat kept pace, however, as Goran Dragic (nine points) and Robinson (six) combined for Miami's first 15 points.
Later in the frame, McDermott knocked down two treys and Edmond Sumner added another as Indiana closed the first quarter with a 9-4 run to take a 28-23 lead.
The Pacers' second unit kept rolling to start the second quarter. Second-year center Goga Bitadze scored on a dunk and a jumper before McDermott knocked down another three as Indiana opened the frame with seven unanswered points.
The hosts led by as many as 14 points, but Miami closed the half strong. Robinson and Tyler Herro both hit 3-pointers during a 13-1 Heat run to close the half, trimming the Pacers' lead to just 45-43 at the intermission.
The Blue & Gold quickly righted the ship at the start of the third quarter, however. LeVert, who had not made a field goal in the first half, scored twice off dishes from Domantas Sabonis on Indiana's first three possessions of the second half. Two free throws by Malcolm Brogdon, a Justin Holiday 3-pointer, and a pair of foul shots by LeVert followed.
All the while, Indiana defense held Miami in check, forcing four missed shots and three turnovers in the first 3:04 of the third quarter. On the last giveaway, LeVert intercepted a Robinson pass and threw the ball ahead to Sabonis for a fastbreak slam, capping a 13-0 Pacers run.
But all that momentum was short-lived. Sabonis' dunk prompted a timeout by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Miami went on a run off its own after the break, reeling off 11 unanswered points over the next three minutes of game time to get back within four. To make matters worse, Turner picked up his fourth and fifth fouls during that sequence, sending him to the bench with 6:05 remaining in the third quarter.
Brogdon's layup at 5:18 ended Indiana's drought, but the Pacers appeared to get another bad break a minute later when Sabonis injured his left quad. The All-Star forward was subbed out and headed straight for the tunnel, where TV cameras captured him sitting on the ground and grimacing while clutching his leg.
The Pacers managed to maintain the lead for the remainder of the third quarter, but Butler and Herro combined for Miami's last 11 points to trim Indiana's lead to 67-65 entering the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back threes from Bitadze and McDermott helped extend the lead to six points early in the final frame. Pacers fans also breathed a sigh of relief when Sabonis checked back in with 9:29 to play.
But the Heat finally retook the lead after Robinson knocked down treys on two consecutive possessions, putting Miami in front, 79-78, with 7:44 remaining.
From there, Indiana's inability to execute offensively ultimately doomed the Pacers down the stretch.
"I think the ball got stagnant a little at times," Turner said. "We stopped moving it, we stopped sharing it like we did in the first half. You put yourself in bad positions like that when the ball gets stuck on one side of the floor or it's not flowing like it's supposed to. It's tough."
T.J. McConnell tallied 11 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in the loss for Indiana. Sabonis narrowly missed out on a double-double, finishing with nine points and 14 rebounds.
Robinson had a game-high 20 points for Miami, going 6-for-11 from 3-point range. Butler added 18 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals, while Adebayo collected 16 points, eight boards, seven assists, and two blocks. Herro also scored 17 off the bench for the Heat.
The Pacers will return to action on Friday night when they host the Hornets, the second of four home games in a five-game stretch for the Blue & Gold.
Inside the Numbers
Turner led the team in scoring for the fourth time this season and added three blocks to his league-leading total. He has now blocked a shot in 61 consecutive games, the longest streak in the NBA since 2007.
McDermott, who missed Monday's loss in Washington with a sprained ankle, returned on Wednesday and made four 3-pointers in a game for the sixth time this season and the fourth time this month.
It was an off night for Brogdon, the Pacers' leading scorer. He managed just seven points on 2-of-12 shooting, the first time all season he failed to score in double figures.
The Heat had a distinct advantage at the free throw line, getting to the charity stripe 28 times and converting 18. The Pacers were just 8-for-12 from the foul line.
You Can Quote Me On That
"We had a tough stretch there where spacing wasn't very good and we turned it over a few times...But I thought the game turned a little before that. Butler had his run and Robinson had a couple of threes there right in front of our bench." -Bjorkgren
"We just can't step on teams. We had a good lead there. I wouldn't say we were relaxed, but when you're playing a great team like the Miami Heat, you know they're not going to stop. They got hot there and it came down to us getting stops. When we were playing our best basketball in the first half, we were definitely getting stops and that led to so many easy buckets in transition." -McDermott
"Obviously that's frustrating to have to sit that long. I did all I could, trying to stretch, trying to stay loose and everything, but it's hard to come in the game like that and perform, especially down the stretch. I'm not making in an excuse. I put myself in a tough position with some of the fouls." -Turner on dealing with foul trouble
"I felt really good. The ankle was definitely a little sore the last few days, but I was able to get some treatment and felt great out there tonight." -McDermott on how he felt returning from a sprained ankle
Stat of the Night
The Pacers failed to score 90 points for the first time all season on Wednesday. Their previous low was 94 points in a loss in Brooklyn on Feb. 10 and they had failed to score 100 points just three times in 45 games entering Wednesday's contest. Indiana is now 0-4 on the year when held under the century mark.
- Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb did not play on Wednesday due to a right toe sprain sustained in Monday's loss in Washington.
- The Heat have won their lone regular season game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in each of the last two seasons.
- Former Pacer and two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo did not travel to Indianapolis for Wednesday's game. Oladipo, who the Heat acquired from Houston at the trade deadline last week, has yet to make his debut for Miami. He has remained in south Florida and missed the past two games due to a head cold.
- The Pacers held a moment of silence before the game for longtime Pacers Sports & Entertainment photographer Frank McGrath, who passed away on Tuesday. The team also reserved a photographer's seat on the baseline in memory of McGrath.
The Pacers host Gordon Hayward and the Charlotte Hornets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday, April 2 at 8:00 PM ET.