For the second time this year, the Pacers and the New Orleans Pelicans gave fans a thrilling contest. But unfortunately, it was time for Blue & Gold fans to feel the sting of a close loss. Using 10 fourth-quarter 3-pointers, including six from the reserves, Indiana (12-11) roared back from an 18-point deficit to take a slim lead late. But when time expired, the Blue & Gold found themselves one point shy of the win. They fell to the visitors, 114-113.
A Doug McDermott triple with 1:54 to go knotted things up at 110 apiece. But, the Pelicans (9-12) responded with consecutive buckets from Steven Adams and Brandon Ingram gave New Orleans a 114-110 lead with 42.6 seconds remaining. The Pacers' 10th 3-pointer of the fourth — an arc from Turner — pulled the Pacers to within one with 39.1 ticks left. The defense then forced a shot-clock violation, giving Indiana one final possession. Turner drove right through traffic and floated a shot. Unfortunately, the ball clinked off the rim and into Adams' arms. Adams called timeout with 0.5 seconds to go, sealing Indiana's fate.
It was certainly a moral victory for the club. But at the end of the day, the Pacers aren't interested in that and were left hungry for more.
"It can be cool to talk about how we came back," Justin Holiday said postgame. "But what we're trying to do every time we come on the floor is put a full game together."
Holiday was one of six Indiana players to finish in double figures. He led the team with a season-high 22 points, connecting on a career-high-tying seven 3-pointers. Bouncing back from a rough night in Milwaukee, Jeremy Lamb added 17 points and six boards in the loss. Doug McDermott added 14, while Goga Bitadze recorded 10 and two blocks as part of the Pacers' ferocious bench performance.
"He's a great team player," coach Nate Bjorkgren said of Bitadze. "I thought his spacing was good. When he was on the perimeter, he was trying to set those good screens...He has skills. He does — just like Myles (Turner) and (Domantas) Sabonis. So, he's capable of a lot of things."
But it was Lamb who was flying high for the Pacers in the opening minutes of the first, tallying eight of Indiana's first 10 points of the game. But New Orleans kept up the pressure, hitting eight of its first nine shots from the floor. At the 6:21 mark, Ingram broke a 16-all tie with a three from the left corner to push the Pelicans ahead before the first stoppage in play.
New Orleans found most of its first-half success using their big men in the paint. With 4:00 to play, Zion Williamson used his frame and athleticism to spin around Justin Holiday and finish a layup through a foul. Though he missed the free throw, he snagged the long rebound and drove left along the baseline. Seconds later, he pushed the Pelicans' lead to 25-19 on a strong two-handed slam.
But Indiana remained tenacious. The club tightened up on the defensive end, holding New Orleans for a 2:38 scoreless span en route to grabbing a 26-25 lead with 1:23 to play. T.J. McConnell's patented turnaround jumper with 34.1 seconds to play snagged a 30-27 Pacers lead before the quarter expired.
But the wheels began to fall off in the second quarter for the Blue & Gold. Indiana finished just 5-of-21 (23.8 percent) from the field in the frame, leading to a 57-48 halftime deficit.
Pelican runs of 13-4 and 13-5 in the second quarter helped New Orleans earn the nine-point advantage in the second. The club finished the period 11-of-18 (61.1 percent) from the field, including 3-of-5 from deep. However, Indiana did have some chances to keep up with the visitors.
Trailing 42-36, Domantas Sabonis finished a tough putback layup in traffic around Williamson to pull within four of the lead. After Lamb blocked Redick's jumper, McConnell drove the lane and kicked the ball out to a wide-open Doug McDermott on the left baseline. McDermott drilled the triple to cut the deficit to 42-41 with 7:13 to play.
But that would be as close as they'd get in the first half. Using their length, the Pelicans inflicted damage close to the rim. All 13 points of New Orleans' 13-5 run came from from inside 14 feet or the charity stripe.
Five quick Pacers points quickly cut the Pelicans lead to 57-53 just 1:08 into the third. However, New Orleans was able to extend its lead to double digits behind a 14-5 run. Malcolm Brogdon finally ended the spree with step-back jumper at the 6:18 mark to trim the Pelicans' lead to 71-60.
Despite getting open looks, Indiana continued to misfire. McDermott's three from the top of the key cut the Pelicans' lead to 76-63 at the 4:33 mark of the frame. But then, Indiana went scoreless for the next 2:14. Meanwhile, New Orleans stretched its lead to 81-63.
Everything changed late in the third.
With 2:19 remaining, Justin Holiday drilled a trey to cut Indiana's deficit to 15. After that, the squad nailed three of their next four attempts from deep to end the frame down 11, 86-75. The most impressive of the run came from Goga Bitadze, whose buzzer-beating shot bounced off the front of the rim, then high off the backboard before falling through the net.
Then they kicked it into overdrive.
Back-to-back triples from Bitadze and Aaron Holiday cut the Pelicans' lead to 89-83 with 9:39 to play. Later, threes from Justin Holiday and McConnell, followed by a reverse layup from Bitadze trimmed the deficit to one possession, 94-91, with 7:14 left.
Despite New Orleans hitting on its attempts, Indiana was not deterred. Trailing 101-96 at the 5:17 mark, Aaron Holiday nailed a deep, 32-foot 3-point shot. On the ensuing Pelicans possession, his older brother Justin picked off Lonzo Ball's pass. He then found McDermott wide-open on the right wing for the seventh snipe of the frame to give Indiana a 102-101 lead with 4:39 remaining.
Later McDermott would respond to a Ball 3-pointer to knot things up at 110 with 1:54 to go.
But two small defensive breakdowns led to consecutive buckets from Adams and Ingram. Trailing by four with 39.1 ticks left, the Pacers connected on their 10th 3-pointer of the frame — an arc from Turner — to come to within one with 39.1 ticks left.
Indiana's lock-down defense then gave the offense 13.7 seconds for one final chance at another improbable victory over New Orleans. But, New Orleans had the last laugh this time, clogging up the paint and sealing the win.
Inside the Numbers
Indiana shot 38 percent from the field (27-71) through the first three quarters before finishing the fourth quarter shooting 63.6 percent (14-22) from the field and 10-for-12 (83.3 percent) from 3-point range.
The Pacers' four bench players (Doug McDermott, T.J. McConnell, Goga Bitadze, and Aaron Holiday) combined for 41 points and 18 assists (15 from McConnell) in tonight's game, including 26 points and 10 assists in the fourth quarter.
Pelicans All-Star forward Brandon Ingram led all scorers tonight with 30 points. It's his fifth game with 30 or more this season.
You Can Quote Me On That
"You could see it from when they were in there — from right when they checked in late in the third to all the way through in the fourth. They were in such attack mode. That group played extremely hard. They were really fighting and it was just too bad there at the end" –Bjorkgren on the Pacers' reserves leading the comeback and finishing out the game
"Honestly, I think it was just the pace. (We) kind of kept pushing the ball, getting open shooters shots, and just playing good basketball. Coach gave us the freedom to go out there, and just go make plays. And we love him for that." –McConnell on what switched in the fourth quarter
"It's good to go out there and play for a long time. I haven't played for that long for pretty much (the entire) year. After injuries it's hard to get back into shape. But it's up to coach, and today he decided I had to go out there and play. So, I was ready." –Bitadze on his solid performance tonight
Stat of the Night
Indiana set a new franchise record with 20 3-pointers made in tonight's loss, 10 of which came during the Pacers' fourth-quarter comeback attempt.
- The teams experienced an extended halftime break after Zion Williamson bent the rim after an attempted dunk in the second quarter. During the break, workers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse broke out the toolset and spent several minutes making sure the rim was level again before returning to action.
- This is just the fourth time in the last 11 season that the Pacers have not swept the season series against the Pelicans.
- Indiana is 7-7 in home games this season.
The Pacers host Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz on Sunday, Feb. 7 at 1:00 PM ET.