The Indiana Pacers’ NBA-best defense was severely tested in the
first two contests of a five-game road trip, and the results were
The Pacers will try to get back in a defensive groove Wednesday
night when they face the Utah Jazz – their only weak opponent
during a challenging western swing but a team that’s currently
enjoying its best stretch of the season.
Indiana (16-2) had allowed 100 points once during a 15-1 start –
unsurprisingly in the only loss – before surrendering at least that
many in back-to-back games to begin the current trip.
The Pacers opened with a 105-100 victory over the Los Angeles
Clippers on Sunday before losing 106-102 to Portland the next
night, snapping a seven-game win streak despite a career-high 43
points from Paul George. Their 110-94 loss at Chicago on Nov. 16
also came on the second night of a back-to-back.
“I really wanted to get this win,” said George, one of four
Indiana players to score 43 or more since 2000. “I was trying to
will us into the game.”
Indiana remains atop the league with 87.6 points allowed per
game despite the defeats, which came against two teams in the top
five in scoring in the NBA.
“They’re a great offensive team and they made big shots all game
long,” coach Frank Vogel said of Portland. “Hopefully that’s what
it’s going to take to beat this team – making impossible shot after
The Pacers still held the Clippers and Trail Blazers to a
combined 45 percent shooting.
Indiana lost to the Blazers at the free-throw line, as Portland
went 29 for 33 while the Pacers hit 15 of 17 – tying their
second-lowest total for attempts this season.
The Pacers’ tough trip concludes with a back-to-back set against
San Antonio on Saturday and Oklahoma City on Sunday.
Indiana has not given up 100 points in three straight games
since an 0-3 stretch from Jan. 23-28. Two of those games,
coincidentally, came against Portland and Utah, which won 114-110
in overtime at home in its most recent meeting with the Pacers on
The Jazz (4-15) have turned it around with three victories in
four games, including an impressive 109-103 win over Houston on
Monday that gave them consecutive victories for the first time this
Marvin Williams scored five points in the final two minutes to
help Utah hold on and Gordon Hayward broke out of a slump with 29
points while going 12 for 18 from the field.
Utah had reached the 100-point mark once in its first 16 games,
averaging 88.5 during that stretch, but it’s been outstanding at
the offensive end in the last week, scoring 107.3 points per game
over the past three.
“We’re learning from the other games and not making the same
mistakes twice,” said Hayward, who shot 29 percent in his previous
nine. “Don’t get me wrong, we still have a lot of improvement as a
basketball team and as individuals, but it’s good to see we didn’t
let this one slip away like we did early in the year.”
The Jazz have lost two of three overall against the Pacers, but
they’ve beaten Indiana six straight times at home.
The Pacers haven’t won in Salt Lake City since an 84-60 victory
Nov. 29, 2005, in which Utah posted the second-lowest point total
in its history. The franchise low came in a 71-56 loss at Seattle
on Feb. 16, 1999.