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INDIANAPOLIS – It had the makings of arguably their best win of the 2019-20 season.
And then it turned into a choke job.
Leading by 10 points with 2:15 to play on Wednesday night in Toronto, the Pacers didn’t score another point, as the Raptors scored 11 straight to steal the victory.
Indiana turned the ball over 4 times in the final two minutes, looking like a team that had never seen full-court pressure.
“Poor execution,” is how Nate McMillan described the final few minutes, with the Pacers losing 119-118, in their third straight loss.
The Pacers (31-20) tied a franchise-record with 19 made three-pointers, but couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers, in losing 3 of the 4 quarters.
A tremendous bench performance, led by Justin Holiday (22 points) and Doug McDermott (19 points), saw the Pacers turn an early double-digit effort into a 15-point halftime lead, thanks to a 43-point second quarter.
But the Raptors (37-14) controlled the other three quarters, while making all of the plays in the final few minutes for their 12th straight win.
A Serge Ibaka three-pointer with 30 seconds to go was the eventual game-winner.
Electing not to take a timeout down one, the Pacers got a wide open three-point look from Victor Oladipo, but that clanked off the side of the rim. Oladipo ran down the rebound, and found Malcolm Brogdon at the top of the key with about 5 seconds remaining. But Brogdon lost control of the ball while driving, which ended the game.
Oladipo got his first start of the 2019-20 season, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Brogdon led the Pacers with 24 points. Domantas Sabonis had 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 32 points. Ibaka added 30, with Pascal Siakam scoring 25 points.
The Pacers will now play home games against the Raptors (Friday) and Pelicans (Saturday) this weekend. Oladipo will sit out one of those games.
Three Things Learned
-Victor Gets First Start: After 3 games of bringing Victor Oladipo off the bench, Nate McMillan and the Pacers did change up the plan for their All-Star guard. Oladipo went into the starting lineup for the first time this season and increased his minutes to 25 (the Pacers now have a 28-minute cap for Oladipo). The bar was set pretty low, but Oladipo did have his ‘best’ night of the season shooting the ball against Toronto. He was 5-of-14 (2-of-6 from three) for 13 points. A couple of stats that you will want to see change for Oladipo soon: he’s taking more three pointers (27) than two pointers (26) and he’s attempted just 8 foul shots in 92 minutes of action this season. The move McMillan made on Wednesday was smart though because Oladipo needs to get used to playing with the starters, and the bench is playing too solid to break up right now.
-Getting Brogdon Off The Ball More: One aspect that the return of Victor Oladipo should allow for is more Malcolm Brogdon playing off the ball. Brogdon’s three-point shooting has a taken a big dip this season (32 percent this year entering Wednesday night, compared to 42 percent last year) and an obvious reason comes from him being needed on the ball more, and not getting as many open looks. Brogdon acknowledged earlier this week that he’s taking the ‘toughest’ shots of his career this season, given all of the on-ball responsibility that comes with being the full-time point guard. Once Oladipo gets back to starting and playing with Brogdon even more, he should create some clean looks for the newcomer in the backcourt. The Pacers need to tap into that as they search for more offensive firepower.
-Trade Deadline Coming Thursday: Unlike previous years, it would be a decent surprise if the Pacers made a trade deadline move this year. Thursday’s afternoon deadline isn’t likely to see much, if any, activity from Kevin Pritchard. For one, Indiana doesn’t have a lot of attractive pieces that they are willing to part ways with (they traded their 2020 first-round pick to Milwaukee for Malcolm Brogdon). T.J. Leaf’s name has been thrown around as a possible trade target, but the Pacers shouldn’t expect much in return for a player firmly out of the current rotation. Myles Turner and Aaron Holiday are other names thrown out when talking about Indiana moving a piece, but those former first-round picks still have value (in different ways) to the Pacers. Secondly, they are re-integrating Victor Oladipo back into the rotation/starting lineup, so that’s already squeezing minutes and forcing some guys out of the rotation. If the Pacers were to make a move, perhaps they would look for a rebounding-centric big man, a stretch four or another defender on the perimeter. If Thursday’s 3:00 PM deadline comes and goes without Indiana making a move, no one should be surprised.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-Raptors 2/7 (Friday)
-Pelicans 2/8 (Saturday)
-Nets 2/10 (Monday)
-Bucks 2/12 (Wednesday)