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INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday, the Pacers played with fire in Victor Oladipo’s return to game action, yet escaped.
There was no escaping on Saturday night.
With Oladipo again struggling from the floor, the Pacers (31-18) were busy getting dominated on the glass and the result was one of their most disappointing losses of the season.
It was the Knicks (14-36), minus 3 key pieces, coming into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and beating Indiana, 92-85.
“We were flat the entire game,” Nate McMillan said after the Saturday night loss. “In the first quarter, we had some open looks that we didn’t knock down. We needed to challenge ourselves and get ourselves into the game defensively.
“You’re not going to defeat teams scoring 11 points in the first quarter and only 14 in the fourth quarter.”
Both of those quarters marked the fewest points the Pacers have scored in the first or fourth this season.
While those ugly offensive numbers were tough for McMillan to look at, so was the rebounding discrepancy.
The Knicks outrebounded Indiana 57-34, the biggest difference allowed by the Pacers this year. The Knicks had 15 more second-chance points than Indiana.
Victor Oladipo’s second game back saw him shoot 2-of-14 from the floor in 22 minutes off the bench.
All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis led Indiana with 25 points.
The Pacers played from behind nearly the entire night, but they did tie the score at 80 with 6:11 to go.
But the Knicks scored 8 straight points and the Pacers missed 9 of their final 11 shots from the field.
With the win, the Knicks ended a 7-game losing streak over the Pacers.
Three Things Learned
-Oladipo Struggling With Shot: Victor Oladipo followed up a 2-of-8 season debut on Wednesday by going 2-of-14 (1-of-4 from three) on Saturday. Oladipo had 7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 turnover in 22 minutes of action. The main (and most important) positive from Oladipo’s first two games back comes from how he has looked physicaly and athletically. There appears to be no issue there. But his jump shot and rust in putting the ball in the basket, in live settings, clearly is there. Honestly, if you had to pick what wouldn’t be there at this point in his return to action (athleticism or shooting), you would take the shooting. Oladipo got himself some great looks on Saturday, but just couldn’t score at any level of the floor.
-Losing Ground In East: A result like Saturday, losing to the lowly Knicks who were missing 3 of their most important players, is something the Pacers have largely avoided this season. But any defeat like this one gets exasperated when playing in a conference where homecourt is going to be vital for playoff success. The Pacers currently sit in the 5th spot at 31-18, but they are 3 games in the loss column behind No. 3 Boston (33-15) and No. 4 Miami (33-15). Growing pains were expected a bit with Victor Oladipo’s re-integration. But at the cost of a few wins could be the difference come April. Given the health of the Pacers, and the Knicks, Saturday’s loss was probably the worst of the season for Indiana.
-T.J. Warren Leaves With Injury: Saturday night was the first time all season (48 games) in which the Pacers didn’t have a single player on the injury report. Well, of course, the game ended with their most durable starter getting hurt. T.J. Warren, who has started every game this season, left in the third quarter with a head injury. Warren was taken to the hospital for further evaluation. Contact to Warren’s head first occurred on a driving attempt by him in which it looked like Domantas Sabonis seemed to inadvertently hit Warren in the forehead area. Warren stayed in for a few more minutes before exiting the game for good when he took another hit on a driving attempt by Julius Randle. Warren fell to the ground and appeared to hit his head on the floor. After staying on the ground for several minutes, Warren had to be helped to the locker room. Obviously, anytime a player has to go to the hospital for a head injury, it bears monitoring.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-Mavericks 2/3 (Monday)
-at Raptors 2/5 (Wednesday)
-Raptors 2/7 (Friday)
-Pelicans 2/8 (Saturday)
-Nets 2/10 (Monday)