3 Things to Like and Dislike From Pacers' Loss to Nets

Grant Afseth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Indiana Pacers have now lost four games following their 104-94 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Despite Kevin Durant being sidelined due to COVID protocols, the Pacers never quite were competitive. 

In the first half, the Pacers put together one of their worst stretches of execution in quite some time. Indiana was outscored 35-12 in the second quarter in this game and that dug too deep of a hole for them to overcome later on. 

The Nets managed to lead by as many as 36 points early in the third quarter. A large run from the Pacers managed to cut their deficit to 14 points with just over a minute remaining in this frame, but they never managed to come within single-digits.  

Indiana now holds a 12-13 record on the season and was surpassed by the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference standings. The Pacers now hold just a half game lead over the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks -- meaning they face falling to No. 8 soon. 

Here are three things to like and dislike from Wednesday's loss: 

DISLIKE: Use of Gimmick Defenses

It's difficult to not respect a team that gets creative with their strategies throughout a game or a season. For the Pacers, it's worked in some rare situations as a change of pace, but largely has been a failure and has resulted in plenty of open shots, poor dribble penetration containment, and long rebounds for the opponent.

The Miami Heat found success in recent seasons by running a 2-3 zone with frontcourt players with length at the top. A critical distinction between the personnel of both teams is foot speed. It all starts with Domantas Sabonis' limitations in that department. 

At some point, it needs to be asked...is there a role for Sabonis defensively against starting talent? He is a non-factor protecting the rim due to a lack of length. He is an outright liability defending out in space in both zone coverages and in man-to-man situations. Using blitzes has put the unit out of position often, too. 

That's troubling when considering the Pacers have an elite defender in Myles Turner anchoring the unit. If Sabonis can't succeed defensively alongside Turner then what is it going to take? Against top teams, there doesn't seem to be a solution. 

LIKE: Perimeter Shooting Results

When looking at the production of both the Nets and Pacers from this season, there was a real concern about a potential disadvantage for Indiana in the perimeter shooting department. That didn't end up happening and was intriguing to see. 

By the end of their performance, the Pacers finished 15-of-38 (39.5%) from beyond the arc. Justin Holiday converted on a game-high four makes from deep while Malcolm Brogdon wasn't too far behind with three of his own. 

Indiana began this game with struggling results from beyond the arc but managed to find a rhythm in the second. For reference, the Pacers shot 11-of-22 (50.0%) from the perimeter after halftime and seven players managed to record at least one make. 

There were no shortage of open looks for the Nets in this matchup but they did end up shooting just 9-of-31 (29.0%) from deep. Brooklyn had a tough time hitting shots, but regardless, the Pacers will need to tighten up defensively.

DISLIKE: Terrible Early Offensive Execution

When thinking of the worst halves in the NBA so far this season, it's difficult to think any that top the Pacers' first half execution in this game. They ended up with just 30 points on 11-of-43 (25.6%) from the field and 4-of-16 (25.0%) from beyond the arc. 

Indiana's offense was very stagnant and it made almost every player outside of Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Aaron Holiday were non-factors. They each had usage rates north of 30% and were seemingly taking matters into their own hands instead of running actual half-court offense.

The execution was not there from the Pacers' most utilized options in this half. Brogdon, Holiday, and Sabonis combined for just 21 points and shot 7-of-27 (40.7%) from the field. That's just not going to translate to winning.

A quality litmus for the Pacers' ball movement is typically Myles Turner's involvement in the offense since he's almost exclusively a play finisher. He finished with just a staggeringly low 6.5% usage rate in the opening half. 

LIKE: Rally Back After Halftime

It was truly a tale of two halves for the Pacers in this game. Enough has been said about how poor of a performance Indiana had to begin this game. While silver-linings don't translate to wins, it was at least intriguing to see the energy-level pick up after the half.

The third quarter was the most intriguing stretch of play for the Pacers. After going down by a game-most 36 points at the 9:41 mark and managed to come within 14 points after TJ McConnell converted on a layup with just 1:17 left in the frame.

The ball was moving a lot better offensively and there was a clearer focus to push the pace in transition. Getting stops defensively to create opportunities on the other end was another factor that seemingly helped Indiana, too.

In the second half, the Pacers managed to outscore the Nets by a 20-point margin. Granted, some of that came in garbage time, but it was intriguing to see the deficit drop below 20 points and hover around 14 points as opposed to remaining a total blowout. 

DISLIKE: Disparity in Star Power

It takes elite players to win in any sport but especially in the NBA. The Pacers do not have the talent to compete with top teams who have players like Kyrie Irving and James Harden. The disparity in talent was on full display in this game. 

After getting picked on by Domantas Sabonis last season, it was clear DeAndre Jordan knew this go around that he needed to absorb body blows and be ready to pressure left handed finishes. That ended up resulting in a struggling outing from Sabonis. 

Malcolm Brogdon has been highly inefficient on finishes around the basket this season and seems to struggle often with his in-between game. When both of those factors are in play during a given game, he tends to produce a highly efficient offensive outing. 

The Nets are a poor defensive team and it's troubling for this Pacers team to convert better from the perimeter than overall from the field against them. It starts with the star players on the team as they are supposed to be floor raisers for the unit as a whole. 

LIKE: Wake Up Call

To begin the season, the Pacers managed to jump out to a 6-2 record through the initial eight games. This was despite the cloud of distraction brought by Victor Oladipo still being on the team and losing TJ Warren from the lineup to injury. 

Over the last 10 games, the Pacers have posted just a 110.7 offensive rating (19th), 112.9 defensive rating (18th), and -2.2 net rating (20th). Indiana has sunk to being a below average team across the board and that doesn't appear ready to change in the meantime. 

The Pacers have looked particularly underwhelming against top teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers before this loss against the Nets. Indiana has looked outright overmatched and has constantly played from behind. 

It's clear the Pacers are going to struggle without having an established star on the roster. Without one, they need to have Caris LeVert and TJ Warren to be healthy to have a more layered and balanced half-court offense.