INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Indiana Pacers looked to get back on track with a matchup against the NBA-best Utah Jazz. In the end, they came up short and lost 103-95
Both teams struggled to get much going in the opening half. The score was tied 47-47 at halftime with the Jazz shooting 40% from the field and the Pacers being just 0.8% above that mark.
The Jazz managed to create some separation in the second half as they held a 75-68 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Pacers tied the game up 83-83 with 6:14 remaining in the game but was outscored 20-12 until the end of regulation.
Indiana has now lost five of their previous six games and hold a 12-12 record. The team is now very much at risk of falling in the Eastern Conference standings with the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks now trailing by a half game.
Here are three things to like and dislike from Sunday's loss:
LIKE: Rally Back In Fourth Quarter
While the Pacers failed to execute well enough in the clutch to win this game, they did use an impressive rally to be in a position to have that chance. It was intriguing to see given the Jazz are an elite team.
At the 9:43 mark of the fourth quarter, the Pacers faced a 81-71 disadvantage and needed a spark. Indiana managed to use a 12-2 run over the next 2:29 of gameplay that resulted in both teams facing a 83-83 tie. Indiana had a real chance to win with this effort.
Indiana is going to need to figure out a way to close out close games. The Pacers now hold a 6-8 record in games that involve clutch situations and that needs improvement.
DISLIKE: Ice-Cold Perimeter Shooting
It appeared as though the Pacers were in the midst of building off their previous outing where they set a new franchise record in made three-pointers with 20 makes.
During the initial 3:11 of gameplay, the Pacers went 4-of-5 (80.0%) from beyond the arc. From that point on, Indiana shot a poor 4-of-24 (16.7%) from the perimeter. Going that cold against arguably the best perimeter shooting team in the NBA isn't a tenable outcome.
Perhaps most troubling of all was how some of the Pacers' key shooters struggled mightily. Malcolm Brogdon (5), Doug McDermott (3), and Goga Bitadze (4) each came up empty on a combined 12 attempts.
LIKE: McDermott's Recent Play
The Pacers have been able to rely on Doug McDermott often throughout this season. He used to rely on his three-point jumper to make an impact but has evolved past that. His 18-point performance against the Jazz without a make from deep is a great example of this.
So far this month, McDermott has scored in double-figures in each of his four performances. He is averaging 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists while going 54.5% from the field.
It has been a tough start to the season in the spot-up shooting department but he has thrived just about everywhere else. In fact, his output of 1.131 points per possession (PPP) ranks 15th among the 114 players with at least 250 possessions.
DISLIKE: Poor Rebounding Results
It has been a struggle for the Pacers to contain opposing teams on the glass as of late. Against the Jazz, those problems persisted, which was an issue during a game when neither team's offensive execution was necessarily clicking.
In this game, the Jazz were able to grab 17 offensive rebounds and managed to score 25 second-chance points. This created a 14-point disadvantage for the Pacers in second-chance scoring and was too much to overcome.
There were numerous momentum swinging long rebounds the Jazz grabbed and turned into quick catch-and-shoot makes from deep. In fact, there were six of these sequences that occurred for Utah throughout the course of this game.
LIKE: Limited Turnovers
The Pacers have struggled to limit their turnovers as of late, particularly against the top teams in the NBA. That wasn't the case for Indiana in this matchup against the Jazz as they recorded just nine turnovers and allowed seven opponent points off turnovers.
Still, there was some room for improvement for the Pacers in this category. Malcolm Brogdon turned the ball over four times and accounted for just under half of the team's giveaways. The only other player with multiple turnovers was Domantas Sabonis, who had two.
The Pacers ended up having better results in this area than the Jazz. In fact, Utah recorded 14 turnovers with Donovan Mitchell personally accounting for five of those. As a team, they allowed 15 points off turnovers.
DISLIKE: Insistence to Attack Gobert
One of the key reasons the Jazz have managed to achieve the NBA's best record so far this season has been the defensive impact of Rudy Gobert. Standing at 7-foo-1 with a 7-foot-9 wingspan, he poses significant problems as a rim protector.
For whatever reason, the Pacers were stubborn in their decision to repeatedly attack the paint against Gobert. Indiana's offense became too focused on dumping the ball to Sabonis to try and directly attack Gobert in the paint -- rarely succeeding.
Indiana went just 10-of-27 (37.0%) from the field on shot attempts that were contested by Gobert. Meanwhile, Sabonis went 4-of-14 (28.6%) on his shots that came against Gobert in this game. This was a failing strategy that achieved failing results.