INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Indiana Pacers now face a three-game losing streak after losing 103-95 to the Utah Jazz. Overall, they are now 12-12 on the season and are at risk of falling below the .500 mark overall.
Early on, the Pacers were thriving from beyond the arc as they converted on four attempts during the initial 3:11 of gameplay. Indiana went on to score only 20 points the opening period and went just 6-of-20 (30.0%) from the field despite going 5-of-11 (45.5%) from deep.
There was a clear emphasis from the Pacers to settle for jump shots and to avoid taking it inside against Rudy Gobert. Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon both struggled to get much going for themselves aside from Sabonis making a pair of early three-pointers.
Using effective defense, the Pacers managed to contain the Jazz enough to trail by just five-points at the end of the first quarter. Aside from 11-points from Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson chipping in six-points of his own, Utah's offense was neutralized.
Indiana managed to close the gap before halftime as they capitalized on Gobert not being on the floor -- outscoring Utah by four points when he was on the bench in the period. The Pacers got to the rim far more effectively in this stretch and went 11-of-20 (55.0%) on two-point field goals while making just one three-pointer.
Neither team managed to get into much of a rhythm offensively in the opening half. The score was tied 47-47 with the Jazz converting below 40% from the field while the Pacers ended up being just barely over that mark.
The Pacers managed to hang with the Jazz for most of the third period. Brogdon tied the game up 58-58 at the 6:47 mark, but Utah began to pull away. Utah outscored Indiana by a seven-point margin for the remainder of the frame.
Indiana encountered issues with guarding Jordan Clarkson during the back half of the third quarter. He went one-on-one on three possessions to get to his spot in mid-range for pull-ups. It didn't help that the Pacers also allowed a couple of '50/50 balls' to lead to momentum swinging catch-and-shoot three-pointers.
"We got to team rebound better. We got to hit first -- we can't afford to miss a blockout on some of those, especially giving up that many points... Obviously you're going to give up some of them, but we have to find ways to cut those in half."
There was a need for the Pacers to put together a large run to overcome the 75-68 disadvantage they faced entering the fourth quarter. Indiana ended up tying the game at 83-83 with 6:14 left to play but failed to sustain their momentum.
"I thought we had some pretty good looks there," Bjorkgren said. "There was a number of them I wish we could get back. Even in transition, I thought we had some three-on-ones where it just kind of got tipped out-of-bounds or we didn't quite finish it. We needed those baskets back because that's what kind of led to them stretching it back on us by seven or eight points. We just didn't convert when we needed to."
For the remainder of this game, the Pacers often turned to Sabonis in the paint to take on Gobert, but that rarely worked out. Indiana scored just 12 points to close out the game on 5-of-15 (33.3%) shooting from the field. Brogdon and Sabonis collectively went 2-of-9 (22.2%) on their shot attempts down the stretch.
"I like the way we were attacking [Gobert] down there... I liked Domas putting his shoulder into him," Bjorkgren said about their late-game offensive strategy.
A critical theme for the Pacers in this game was simply their inability to success offensively against Gobert. Indiana went 7-of-20 (35.0%) from the field on shots he contested with Sabonis particularly going 3-of-11 (27.3%) in those situations.
The Pacers' initial execution from the perimeter certainly did not last. Indiana went on to shoot just 8-of-29 (27.6%) from deep during this game. This came after their previous against the Pelicans that featured setting a new franchise-record with 20 made three-pointers.
Another problematic area for the Pacers was their inability to keep the Jazz away from offensive rebounding opportunities. Indiana allowed a staggering 17 offensive rebounds and 25 second-chance points.
It is becoming abundantly clear that Indiana simply lacks a 'go-to' option that can get the job done against top teams. Sabonis and Brogdon have been relied upon in pivotal roles offensively but they just aren't that caliber of offensive threat.
Until the Pacers have enough of scoring punch as a collective unit, it's going to be challenging to get wins against top teams. There just isn't enough shot creation ability on the floor for Indiana. The eventual returns of TJ Warren and Caris LeVert will be needed.
The Pacers will begin a three-game road trip on Wednesday and will begin with a matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.