Pacers Drop Fourth Straight Game, Lose 104-94 to Nets

Grant Afseth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Indiana Pacers looked to bounce back from Sunday's loss to the Utah Jazz that featured a season-low 95 points. Instead, they lost their fourth consecutive game by falling 104-94 against the Brooklyn Nets. 

It was a struggle for the Pacers to get much going offensively in the first quarter. Indiana had finished with a season-low 18 points on 7-of-22 (31.8%) shooting from the field. Meanwhile, the Nets faced little resistance en route to 27 points.

The Pacers held their own defensively early in the second quarter when the Nets had James Harden as the lone star on the court. That was until they decided to switch to a zone scheme and allowed Joe Harris to make them pay for being left open. Brooklyn built on that momentum to take a 39-25 lead with 6:26 left in the half -- prompting Indiana to call timeout.

There was a noticeable lack of assertiveness from the Pacers on defense. On play that exemplified this was when Myles Turner switched on James Harden and tightly contested his step-back three-pointer. With four defenders in the paint, Kyrie Irving out-muscled Aaron Holiday for an offensive rebound in the restricted area. 

At other times, the Pacers simply couldn't keep up with the Nets' superstars. Irving was able to get into the paint far too easily to create spray out three's and passes to relief options near the basket. That only worsened when Harden checked back into the game, too. 

With Harden and Irving continuing to rip apart the Pacers' defense, the Nets built their lead to 55-29 with 2:07 remaining in the second quarter. At this point, Irving (5) and Harden (4) had combined for nine assists. 

As difficult as it was for the Pacers to get stops, it was arguably more challenging for them to get anything going offensively. Indiana remained intent on running their half-court offense through Brogdon and Sabonis with little results being achieved. The Nets were locking it down defensively.

"We haven't played defense like that pretty much the entire season, so it was definitely good to see us taking a step in the right direction," Nets forward Joe Harris said. 

For the remainder of the opening half, the Pacers reverted to a 2-3 zone. The idea of doing so was questionable since talents like Harden and Irving can pick that scheme apart too easily, which ended up happening. Harden drilled a deep three-pointer and then Irving got the rim by getting into the paint easily. 

When Irving managed to draw a shooting foul on a finish attempt off a cut with 1:14 left to play, he managed to extend the Nets' lead to 30 points. He followed it up by drawing another shooting foul on a finish attempt to cap off a staggering 35-12 advantage in the second quarter. 

The Nets held a staggering 62-30 lead at halftime. At this point, Irving (16) and Harden (13) already reached double-figures scoring with DeAndre Jordan (12) and Joe Harris (10) also meeting this mark. Brooklyn got to the free throw line 26 times by halftime, too.

Meanwhile, the Pacers went 11-of-43 (26.2%) from the field and 4-of-16 (26.7%) from beyond the arc in the opening half. There was minimal ball movement and a lot of standing around for their unit within the half-court and the energy-level was low defensively. 

"I thought we were getting frustrated on both ends, which was affecting the other," Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said. "Offensively, just the movement kind of came to a standstill, kind of looking around a little bit instead of really being the aggressor."

There was too much reliance on Brogdon and Sabonis to make something happen against a set defense. At the half, Sabonis had nine points on 3-of-11 (27.2%) from the field while Brogdon had seven points and went 2-of-9 (22.2%) on his shot attempts.

Brooklyn managed to build their lead up to as many as 36 points at the 9:41 mark of the third quarter. The Pacers significantly picked up their play from that point going forward but it was a classic case of 'too little, too late.' Indiana narrowed the gap to 14 points with 1:17 left in the frame. 

Both the Pacers and Nets traded momentum a bit in the fourth quarter but the hole Indiana had previously dug was far too deep to overcome. The closest this matchup became in the second half was when Indiana cut Brooklyn's lead to 10-points with 24.9 seconds left to play.  

It's never a good sign when the top two scoring options for a team finish with more shot attempts than points. For the Pacers, that was the case. Sabonis had 18 points, nine rebounds, and four assists while going 7-of-20 (35.0%) from the field and 2-of-6 (33.3%) from deep. Meanwhile, Brogdon finished with 15 points, five rebounds, and six assists on 5-of-17 (29.4%) from the field and 3-of-8 (37.5%) on three-pointers. 

Indiana's offense set a new season-low in scoring during this matchup with 94 points. Overall, they ended up shooting executing better from the perimeter than they did from the floor. For reference, the Pacers finished 36-of-92 (39.1%) from the field and 15-of-38 (39.5%) on three-pointers. 

A critical element to the Nets' success was the 35 points and eight assists contributed from Kyrie Irving. He went 8-of-17 (47.1%) on his shot attempts but also finished with 17 free throw attempts having made all of them. James Harden got the line 10 times as well and didn't miss. 

Indiana will need to turn things around in the hurry before it becomes too great of a problem. Now, they hold a losing record (13-14) and have lost four consecutive games. Their next matchup is a Detroit Pistons team who is tied for the fewest wins in the NBA so far.