Pacers Fall for Second Straight Game, Lose to Mavericks 124-112

Grant Afseth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The focus for the Indiana Pacers was clear in their 124-112 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. They wanted to get the ball out of Luka Doncic's hands and force other players to beat them. 

The Pacers initially deployed an aggressive defensive strategy that featured blitzes early in possessions against Doncic. This often featured having Domantas Sabonis and Doncic's direct assignment to trap the ball quickly after Doncic crossed half-court. It also didn't work on many occasions.

"I had Domas out there on the perimeter a lot in blitzes and in his coverage, I was even switching with him a bit out there," Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said. "So it left us a little bit smaller on the backside of our defense when Domas is out there being aggressive.

"I love the aggressiveness he played with, and our team played with. They made the shots when they had to make them."

Using such a blitzing strategy against a team with a true five-out offense like the Mavericks use proved problematic. The primary beneficiary of the Pacers' double-teams was Kristaps Porzingis, who finished with a game-high 27 points to go with his 13 rebounds and four assists. 

Doncic routinely brought his two defenders toward the wing to create favorable windows to deliver the ball to Porzingis in the paint for wide-open finishes. 

"Four of my first five baskets were just layups off great passes from my teammates," the 7-foot-3 Porzingis said. "Look, tonight was one of those nights where it just came easy. A lot of good looks, a lot of layups. I'm glad we got the win."

The Mavericks solved the Pacers' attacking defense early, taking a 37-28 lead through the first quarter. Indiana did manage to get back on track to close out the first half, though. 

While Doncic was on the bench for most of the first five minutes of the quarter, the Pacers settled in defensively and started converting from deep on offense. Indiana trailed just 45-42 when Doncic checked back into the game after facing a deficit as large as 16 points. 

After both teams had traded blows in the third quarter, the Mavericks managed to break away in the later stages. Using an 11-3 run capped off by a Tim Hardaway Jr. three-pointer with 9:18 to go, Dallas grabbed a 104-95 lead and never looked back. The Pacers got no closer than six points the rest of the way.

"We weren't able to recover from that [run]," Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon said. "We went down seven and they were able to build on that lead a little bit."

In the end, the Pacers' intent to force the Mavericks' supporting cast to beat them backfired. Between Porzingis (27), Trey Burke (22), Tim Hardaway Jr. (19), and Jalen Brunson (19), Dallas had four scorers with at least 19 points. Doncic finished with a triple-double, with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.

"Tonight, it was all about the fight," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Our communication was there, we were able to stay disciplined and look, Porzingis was terrific."

Overall, the Pacers' defense struggled to get the job done without the NBA's leading shot-blocker, Myles Turner. Indiana allowed the Mavericks to score a staggering 68 points in the paint and forced only eight turnovers. Turner is out with a fractured hand.

Malcolm Brogdon (26 points) and Domantas Sabonis (25) continue to lead the Pacers' scoring attack. Other key players like TJ Warren, Caris LeVert, and Myles Turner remained sidelined, requiring Brogdon and Sabonis to continue to step up. 

The Pacers are now 8-6 on the season. and return to action against the Orlando Magic (7-8) on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

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