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INDIANAPOLIS – Holding the Houston Rockets to less than 100 points is something any NBA head coach would be happy to sign up for heading into a game versus such a potent offensive attack.
But the Indiana Pacers could not turn that defensive effort into a win on Monday night.
The Rockets (4-5) made the plays late and locked up the Pacers (7-4) to come away with a 98-94 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
For yet another night, the Pacers left a significant amount of points at the foul line.
Although the Pacers were the aggressor in shooting a season-high 30 foul shots, they made just 20, for a 66.7 percent night.
“We’ll just spend even more time on it tomorrow,” Indiana head coach Nate McMillan said after his team’s second home loss of the season. “We leave 10 free throws out there. We’re a much better free throw shooting team than that. We just have to continue to work at it, take a deep breath and knock them down.”
The repeated theme of poor foul shooting is something that has flared up on several occasions here early in the 2018-19 season.
“We’ve just got to step up and make them, not overthink it,” Victor Oladipo, who led the Pacers with 28 points, said after the loss. “Just relax and take our time and do what we’ve been doing all our lives honestly, and that’s make free throws. We’ve just got to work on it. I think it’s all mental.”
For much of Monday night, the Pacers were rightfully frustrated with the officiating, despite shooting 14 more foul shots than the Rockets.
The questionable/inconsistent whistle led to Nate McMillan receiving a technical with less than 5 minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
At that point, Indiana had lost its 6-point fourth-quarter cushion.
Houston chucked their way to a 15-of-47 night from behind the arc, but the Rockets made 5 massive threes in the final quarter to stave off more late-game magic from Oladipo.
After scoring 55 points in the first half, Indiana managed just 39 points in the final two quarters, including a 3-minute plus field goal drought in the fourth, which Houston used to go on a 12-2 run.
The Rockets were led by Harden’s 28 points. Fellow All-Star Chris Paul dissected the Pacers in the final quarters, finishing the game with 13 assists.
The Pacers and Rockets will actually wrap up their season series this Sunday in Houston.
Three Pacers’ Takeaways:
–Victor Is The Closer: Monday had the feel of a playoff-type atmosphere inside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. And Victor Oladipo was once again being the closer that this team is going to rely on all season long. Oladipo scored 10 points for the Pacers in the game’s final 2:40. There are zero questions as to who this team’s go-to player is, especially down the stretch. That’s great, but Oladipo could have used some other help in not having to put so much late-game pressure on his shoulders, when Houston has two All-Stars making those plays on the other end of the floor.
–Can’t Take Advantage of Switches: Again, coaches would call giving up 98 points to the Rockets a worthy enough defensive performance to get a win. But Indiana did not do enough offensively against the Rockets’ all-switch defense. Credit Houston for having the personnel capable enough to withstand constant switching. But the Pacers still did not do their part in taking advantage of some favorable matchups and working to find those within the shot clock. Outside of Oladipo and Sabonis, Indiana shot 15-of-45 for the game.
–Sabonis vs. Turner: Before Monday night’s tip, Nate McMillan had this to say about Domantas Sabonis: “I’m trying to get more minutes for Sabonis.” Well, the head coach held true to his word on Monday, playing Sabonis 30 minutes off the bench, including the game’s final 16 minutes, while Myles Turner did not play in the fourth quarter. Sabonis delivered with 17 points (7-of-9 shooting), 8 rebounds and a team-high 5 assists. Turner did not. The starting center had just 1 point and 1 rebound in the first half and finished the night with 7 points, 2 rebounds and 3 blocks in 23 minutes. If nights like Monday start to become a common occurrence, McMillan is going to have a decision to make on possibly making a starting lineup switch for the first time this season.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-Philadelphia (Wednesday, 11/7)
-at Miami (Friday, 11/9)
-at Houston (Sunday, 11/11)
-Miami (Friday, 11/16)
-Utah (Monday, 11/19)