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INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time since the opening week of the 2019-20 season, the Indiana Pacers (22-14) are struggling to find consistent winning performances.

The Pacers have started 2020 with consecutive losses, and have now dropped 5 of their last 7 games.

An 0-2 start to the New Year for the Pacers saw them lose to the Nuggets (24-10) and Hawks (8-28).

Thursday’s loss to Denver ended a 6-game homecourt win streak for the Pacers.

Despite Indiana having a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter, and leading for the entire first half, the talented Nuggets imposed their will after half.

Led by a career-high 25 points on 11-of-12 shooting from reserve Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets pulled away for a 124-116 victory.

Even though All-NBA center Nikola Jokic had just 2 points in the first half, Denver trailed by only 2.

The Nuggets outrebounded the Pacers, 47-34.

Jeremy Lamb led the Pacers with 30 points.

With Malcolm Brogdon (back) missing a second straight game, the Pacers had no answer for Trae Young in Saturday’s 116-111 road loss to the Hawks.

Young went off for 30 first-half points, as the Hawks scored 43 points in the first quarter.

Unlike Indiana, Atlanta played on Friday night, yet still jumped out to a 22-point lead in the first half.

The Pacers, behind 6 guys in double figures, were led by Domantas Sabonis scoring 25 points.

But the Indiana starters not named Sabonis were just 15-of-51 from the floor.

Indiana’s defensive struggles continued, with poor offensive execution leading to the Pacers failing at completing the comeback.

Just 16 fourth quarter points for the Pacers led to losing to the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

Three Things Learned

-Losses Starting To Pile Up: Outside of losing their first three games to start the season, the Pacers have not had to deal with a stretch like they are currently in, losing 5 of their past 7 games. The stretch stings for a team trying to sneak into a top-4 seed for the playoffs. But it isn’t too crippling, when talking about Indiana’s spot in the entire playoff picture. The Pacers are currently No. 6 in the East, still 5 games up on No. 7 Brooklyn, and 8 games up on the Hornets, who are the first team out of the playoffs right now. Keeping a playoff spot should/will be no issue for the Pacers. But the recent losses have widened the gap from the jumbled 2 through 6 rankings we saw a few weeks back. The Pacers are currently 4.5 games behind No. 2 Boston, and 2 games behind No. 4 Toronto.

-Defensive Struggles Lingering: The common thread in the Pacers losing 5 of their past 7 games has been constant issues in getting enough defensive stops. Indiana has allowed at least 113 points in 6 of those 7 contests. Coming into this season, there were definitely questions about how the Pacers would defend. Myles Turner defending the rim is one piece to the puzzle, but the Pacers have certainly had issues rebounding, and the lack of perimeter defenders is a concern, especially without Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo.

-Brogdon’s Injuries Starting To Pile Up: In the last 6 games for the Pacers, Malcolm Brogdon has played just 8 minutes. With Brogdon not making the road trip to Atlanta/Charlotte, he will have missed 10 of the first 37 games this season. Much more so than on-court fit with the Pacers, Brogdon’s injury history was easily the biggest question mark with him signing a 4-year deal. While Brogdon’s foot has most often been the cause for him to miss time in the past few years, his ailments this year have included a sore back, a finger on his shooting hand and hamstring. It goes without saying that the Pacers need a healthy and reliable Brogdon to have a realistic chance at winning a playoff series come April.

Pacers Upcoming Schedule

-at Hornets 1/6 (Monday)

-Heat 1/8 (Wednesday)

-at Bulls 1/10 (Friday)

-76ers (Monday)

-at Timberwolves (Wednesday)