Pacers final score: Pacers unable to hold on against Lakers in 112-111 loss despite Tyrese Haliburton’s return

Feb 3, 2023 - 3:52 AM
NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at <a href=Indiana Pacers" src="" />
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

A lackluster fourth quarter spoiled Tyrese Haliburton’s return as the Indiana Pacers fell late to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pacers led the entire way, but poor shooting in the fourth, combined with 16 Lakers free throws in the final quarter alone proved too much, extending Indiana’s losing streak to four.

The return of Haliburton changed the entire mood of Gainbridge Fieldhouse, not only in seeing him back on the court for the first time since January 11, but in announcing his first All-Star appearance just before tipoff.

The difference was notable from the jump. His ability to move the offense opened things up in a big way, helping the Pacers to a double figure lead in the first quarter. Haliburton had 11 points and two assists in the quarter as Indiana shot 54% from the floor and a healthy 7-14 from three.

The Lakers were able to take advantage of their bench minutes, eventually cutting the lead down to two early in the period. Myles Turner locked in a response, scoring seven straight to push the advantage back to nine as part of a 14-2 run that featured three assists from Haliburton, loosening up for some spectacular passing.

The Lakers would climb back to within single digits, but Indiana again had a response to close out the half as Aaron Nesmith connected on a four-point play to cap a 15-point first half, helping Indiana to a 67-54 halftime lead.

After back-to-back threes from Dennis Schroder opened the third in a positive way for Los Angeles, Nesmith scored six more, keeping them at arms length. Haliburton, somehow showing no rust in his return, was in such a groove in this stretch, finding Nesmith on a behind-the-back pass and then going behind the back on a pass fake, whizzing it inside to Turner to keep the Pacers out front.

Daniel Theis got the back-up minutes for the first half in his first game with the Pacers, but his rust was far more on display, leading Rick Carlisle to make the change, moving Isaiah Jackson into the rotation to close the third. In four minutes, Jackson had four points, three boards, and a block, capping the effort with a thunderous offensive rebound, throwing the ball through the basket to give Indiana a 12-point advantage heading into the fourth.

T.J. McConnell opened the fourth with a jumper, extending the lead to 14, but a foul heavy opening few minutes helped disrupt the flow, putting the Lakers in the penalty with 7:57 remaining, leading by nine. That would of course play a huge role down the stretch with Indiana’s shooting drying up and the Lakers playing an unbelievable defensive quarter, committing just a single foul before a LeBron James three gave the Lakers their first lead with 2:35 remaining.

Buddy Hield would follow up the triple to flip the Pacers back in the lead, but were unable to take advantage of a James charge on the other end, not only unable to draw a foul, but suddenly unable to pull in a rebound, allowing two offensive boards that would eventually set up James at the free throw line to regain the lead.

Andrew Nembhard, in his struggles on the night, stepped up with a big jumper to change the lead yet again, but the Lakers had another response, taking the lead on tough fadeaway from Anthony Davis. Haliburton meanwhile had his worst quarter of the game scoring just three on 1-6 shooting with two turnovers, and was unable to complete a layup, getting blocked by Davis on the switch.

The Pacers caught a break when on the intentional foul, Patrick Beverley missed both attempts, keeping the game locked at one, but LA’s favorable foul situation allowed them to take advantage of Indiana using their final timeout by giving their last foul. Beverley covered Haliburton on the game’s final possession, forcing Hield into the corner. Hield’s heavily contested shot bounced on the rim, but couldn’t fall through, giving the Lakers a 112-111 win on the road.

The Pacers were outscored 28-15 in the fourth quarter, shooting just 6-27 from the floor. They committed nine personal fouls in the quarter, setting up the Lakers for 16 free throw attempts, though they left the door wide open by missing half of them. It was a tough night for Indiana in terms of fouls, committing 21 to Los Angeles’s 10, getting outshot 31-6 at the free throw line.

Though Indiana did shoot 41 three pointers, theoretically limiting their chances at fouls, they still were grossly underrepresented under what is typically deemed possible in an NBA game. In the 20 games they’ve shot 40 or more threes, they’ve averaged 21.8 FTA per game, the low before tonight being 14. The Lakers’ 10 foul calls was the second fewest against the Pacers this season, still managing to get more attempts in said game, a win over Boston.

Alas, though while the officials’ “sleepless nights” will wreak havoc on any team unfortunate enough to play the Lakers for the foreseeable future, that wasn’t the only factor in limiting Indiana’s trips to the line. Bennedict Mathurin in particular was a nonfactor, scoring five points, not looking to attack the basket after coming up short against Davis early on.

The bench as a whole struggled to make an impact as well. They combined for 20 points total, 11 of which came from McConnell, going 5-10 from the floor with four assists, committing three turnovers. Theis’s return left much to be desired, leaving his two jumpers short and blanking elsewhere and Oshae Brissett missed all three of his shots, though did bring in five boards. Jackson was good in his limited minutes, finishing with four points, six boards, and three blocks, but what kind of a role he has with Theis returning to the mix may complicate matters further regarding the big rotation.

That left just about everything to the starters, and they very nearly did manage to pull it out. Haliburton led the way with a double double, scoring 26 points with 12 assists, one of three Pacers to pick up two steals. Up until his fourth quarter struggles, credit due to Beverley, Haliburton hadn’t missed a beat from his play a month ago, connecting on four well-timed threes and carving up Los Angeles’s defense with his passing.

The obvious answer to greatest beneficiary of Haliburton’s return would likely be Hield, especially after the two connected on the opening basket of the game, but it would actually play out more in favor of Nesmith, who totaled a season best 24 points with five threes. Half of those points would come on Haliburton assists, five total, after averaging just 7.8 points on 26% three point shooting with Haliburton out.

Unfortunately, Nesmith was just one of many Pacers to struggle in the fourth, leading the way with just three points in a period no Pacer scored more than once. That included just two points from Turner, who was fantastic in stretches tonight, finishing with 20 points and 13 rebounds, blocking two shots.

Foul trouble would wind up limiting his effectiveness overall, however, after picking up a foul on a Lonnie Walker IV block that may have been overturned on a challenge, leading to just seven points the rest of the way. Hield meanwhile also had a bit of a quiet outing, scoring just 14.

The return of Haliburton couldn’t end in a win, but it was a much more familiar sight than the one Pacers fans have gotten used to with him out the past three weeks. It’s an encouraging sight to see him pick right up where he left off, living up to every bit of his All-Star status.

What that means for the rest of the season remains to be seen, but in the meantime, Indiana is now in 11th place in the East, a full game back of Chicago for ninth. A loss tonight also didn’t help as it may have been their best shot at a win for the next week as the schedule remains a challenge, starting with a back-to-back home game against the Sacramento Kings tomorrow night, celebrating the third All-Star appearance for Domantas Sabonis in his first game back in Indianapolis.

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