If any game was indicative of this snake-bitten Pacers season, it might have been Thursday's contest against Brooklyn.
Already undermanned, Indiana saw three more players exit due to injury and trailed by as many as 23 points in the third quarter against the East-leading Nets. Yet the Pacers scratched and clawed their way back to make it a game, climbing within seven points with seven minutes to play.
In the end, however, Indiana (29-33) didn't have quite enough to keep up with Kevin Durant and company, falling to Brooklyn (43-20), 130-113.
Caris LeVert did his best to give the undermanned Pacers a chance, scoring 36 points on 14-of-24 shooting (5-of-9 from 3-point range) to go along with four rebounds and five assists.
But Durant scored 32 of his season-high 42 points in the second half and also dished out 10 assists to lift the Nets to victory.
"It's definitely tough, but as I continue to say, it's a weird year with games being played so close together and it's the NBA with a next-man-up mentality," LeVert said after the loss. "We've still got to continue to fight and I thought we fought hard tonight all the way til the end."
PLAYOFF PICTURE: Tracking the Latest Standings, Remaining Schedules, and More »
LeVert carried Indiana's offense early against his former team. LeVert knocked down his first three 3-point attempts and scored 12 of the Pacers' first 20 points on Thursday.
But the Nets had plenty of offense on the other end, as Jeff Green scored 12 points in the opening frame, while Durant and former Pacer Alize Johnson added eight points apiece. Brooklyn took a 35-28 lead into the second quarter.
To make matters worse, the Pacers saw another key player go down after the opening frame. Leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon played the entire first quarter, but was ruled questionable to return early in the second quarter and declared done for the night at halftime.
After a JaKarr Sampson dunk on the first possession of the second quarter, the Nets reeled off 11 unanswered points to push their lead to 16. The visitors stretched the margin to as high as 19 and took a 66-52 advantage into the intermission.
The Blue & Gold opened the second half with a 7-2 run to cut the deficit briefly to single digits. But that was short-lived, as Brooklyn reeled off 12 straight points in less than a minute. Joe Harris started the scoring with a 3-pointer at the 10:28 mark, Durant buried a trey 17 seconds later and then drew a foul on a three and hit all three foul shots the next time down the floor, and then Tyler Johnson drained a triple at 9:34.
Durant wasn't done there. He scored 14 more points in a 5:14 span later in the frame. By the time he checked out at the two-minute mark, the 11-time All-Star had 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the third quarter alone.
LeVert and Edmond Sumner did their best to keep up with Durant on the other end. LeVert scored 13 points and Sumner added 11 in the third quarter on combined 10-for-13 shooting, but Brooklyn outscored Indiana 45-41 in the frame to take a 111-93 lead into the fourth quarter.
Sumner did not return, however, sitting out the fourth quarter with a sore left knee. And he wasn't the last Pacer to exit the game prematurely.
A scary moment occurred early in the fourth quarter when Sampson took a shot to the back of the head from a Blake Griffin follow-through. Sampson collapsed on the baseline and the training staff quickly rushed to his side. After a couple of minutes, he was helped up and walked into the locker room for evaluation.
Nonetheless, the Pacers put together a significant charge. Playing primarily with a lineup that featured four reserves and Oshae Brissett, Indiana opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run to make it a 113-106 game with 7:08 remaining.
But the Pacers managed just two field goals (both by LeVert) the rest of the way as their comeback bid ultimately came up short.
"It says a lot of their will," Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren said. "They wanted to come in and keep grinding it. They came in and played defense and got stops. We even had some clean looks at it when we got it to seven. We were all out of timeouts there with six or seven minutes to play, but man, they kept attacking and we were a shot or two away there from a one-possession game."
Sumner finished with 16 points in 23 minutes before exiting the game. Doug McDermott added 15 points off the bench, Brissett tallied 14 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks, and Aaron Holiday scored 12 in the loss.
Alize Johnson had a monster night against the team that drafted him in the second round in 2019, finishing with 20 points and 21 rebounds. Green, Harris, and Landry Shamet added 14 points apiece for Brooklyn.
The Pacers will now embark on a two-game road trip with games in Oklahoma City on Saturday and Washington on Monday.
Inside the Numbers
LeVert's 36 points were his most in 26 games with the Pacers. His previous high in an Indiana uniform was 34 at Memphis on April 11.
The Pacers matched their season high with 41 points in the third quarter on Thursday, but also surrendered 45 points to Brooklyn, five more than the previous high for an Indiana opponent in the frame.
Alize Johnson recorded his third career double-double and his second with the Nets. He also had a double-double for the Pacers in the regular season finale against Miami last August. Johnson set a new career high with 21 rebounds, 17 of them coming on the defensive glass.
Aaron Holiday scored in double figures for the first time in his last 11 games. Prior to that, he had reached double figures in four of five games to open the month of April.
Brooklyn outrebounded Indiana, 50-38. The Pacers have lost the battle of the boards in eight straight contests.
You Can Quote Me On That
"The paint is definitely way more open. I'm still getting my footing as well. I'm feeling better and better every game...My teammates and coaches (are) giving me confidence as well to go out there and be aggressive." -LeVert on his increased confidence on the offensive end
"It's a challenge. The list has gotten longer, but like I keep saying, there are capable guys on this team that can play very good basketball, even as you saw tonight." -Bjorkgren on the injuries continuing to pile up
"We're a different team when we get stops and play in transition. We didn't have a lot of transition tonight because obviously Kevin was scoring a lot. But even when he wasn't scoring, they were on the glass and they were getting a lot of easy ones." -LeVert on what led to the large deficit on Thursday
"We've been through a lot this year. Obviously with just different lineups, different people coming in and out of the games, guys coming out because of injuries...Hopefully we showed our toughness." -Holiday on the team fighting back in the fourth quarter
Stat of the Night
With the loss on Thursday, the Pacers are now 11-19 on the season at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana will have a losing record at home for the first time since the 1988-89 campaign, snapping a streak of 31 consecutive seasons with a winning home record, the third-longest streak in NBA history.
- Brooklyn has won four straight against the Pacers overall and four in a row at The Fieldhouse.
- With Thursday's victory, the Nets swept the season series with Indiana for the first time since 2012-13.
- Brooklyn was without All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who was ruled out on Thursday afternoon due to a sore right groin. Fellow All-Star James Harden remains out indefinitely with a strained right hamstring.
The Pacers travel to Oklahoma City to tip off a two-game road trip against the Thunder on Saturday, May 1 at 8:00 PM ET.