It was one of those nights where the Pelicans couldn’t force their opponent to deviate from their game plan.
Not in the slightest!
New Orleans lost by a final score of 129-122 to the Pacers in Indiana, losing their second straight contest and falling to 5-5 in the standings.
Tyrese Haliburton, who finished with 20 points, 13 assists and six 3-pointers, had zero problems in breaking down his man, splitting pick-and-rolls, basically, doing anything that he damn well pleased. We even witnessed him forgo several layups or floaters in mild traffic because he smartly opted to hit teammates sitting wide open.
The rest of the Pacers followed their star point guard’s lead, moving, creating and finding all the seams in the Pelicans’ porous defense. It was a masterful display of offensive execution against a defense that was a couple of steps slow throughout.
Indiana knocked down 22 3-pointers, their second-highest mark in franchise history, but seemingly all 48 of their attempts came in good rhythm.
Sadly, it wasn’t just the 3-ball that gave New Orleans a lot of problems. When Indiana missed, they kept possessions alive by exerting greater determination. They appeared to grab the vast majority of 50/50 balls. They were the clear aggressor from start to finish.
There’s something to be said when Buddy Hield (20 points, five rebounds, five 3s, two steals, two blocks) looks faster and shiftier than all the Pelicans chasing him.
With the Pelicans switching everything — even when there was no pressing need, the Pacers exhibited great patience, exploiting all mismatches.
That’s how Myles Turner nearly set a new career high. Indiana’s center scored 37 points, making 11 of 18 from the field and going a perfect 11 for 11 from the free throw line.
“Everything was the issue,” Willie Green said. “They got whatever they wanted. They ran their plays hard. They played hard. Hats off to them. I take nothing away from the Pacers. They came out and played an excellent overall game — and we didn’t. We can’t wait to start trying to play hard, with a quarter and a half left in the game, and that’s directly a reflection of me. I promise that we’ll be better.”
Not being able to slow down Indiana remotely offset the nice grooves that Brandon Ingram (29 points, five rebounds, three 3s, two blocks) and Zion Williamson (26 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two 3s) found in the second half.
“Zion was excellent, “Green said. “He attacked the basket. he made plays for his teammates, he rebounded the ball ... We’ve just got to play for 48 minutes and right now we’re not. That’s why we’re losing some of these games that we’re no where capable of winning.
“We know we’re better. We’re losing these games because we know we’re talented, we have an opportunity to do something special, but we can’t roll the balls out. We just can’t roll the balls out and think we’re gonna beat teams. We gotta work at it. We gotta compete. We gotta play hard. And I just didn’t think we did it up to our level tonight.”
Those postgame remarks from the head coach truly summarize things well.
It wasn’t a math problem. Not tonight. It was a complete inability to stay in front of driving Pacers, to run them off the 3-point line, to play with a sense of purpose for a full 48 minutes, just as the scouting report required, I’m sure.
Fred Vinson told Jen Hale at halftime, among other things, that the Pelicans needed to get out to Indiana shooters. That the weak side defense needed to be engaged.
New Orleans didn’t check off any boxes.
“They played faster than we did,” Green said.
The Pacers ran circles around the Pelicans. That can’t happen in Chicago in two days time.