Torrey Craig has career night, Nets attempt 41 FTs and Kevin Durant mistakenly not ejected
The Pacers drop to 1-5 after 105-98 loss without three starters.
Giving up just 105 points to the high-powered Nets, who are led by NBA MVPs Kevin Durant and James Harden, would seem like a victory. The Pacers yielded 124 and 130 points to the Brooklyn Nets in their last two meetings last season, respectively.
However, the Pacers (1-5) have scored 100 points or less in three of their last four games so it wasn’t enough to return to Indianapolis Friday night with a second win.
It was an improved performance from Wednesday night, a lackadaisical showing in a loss to the Raptors that had the players demanding more toughness and energy from themselves afterward.
They responded with a 38-point first quarter, which gave them a 12-point advantage. But then they were outscored 59-36 over the middle two quarters and the Nets paraded to the foul like far too often — just like last season, when the Nets had 40 and 35 attempts in two of their meetings. (Those were their highest totals of the season.)
On a poor shooting night for both teams, the Nets (3-3) attempted 18 more free throws (41 total) and outscored the Pacers 31 to 16 at the line to fend off a late charge, 105-98. Harden alone was 16 for 19 after going 14 for 15 through the first five games.
“Overall, I really liked the way we competed in this game,” head coach Rick Carlisle said following the loss. “We certainly weren’t perfect. Our activity was a lot better, our effort on loose balls was a lot better.”
We knew the first month of their schedule was going to be a beast, but a 1-5 start is tough and is why losing each of their first two games by one point still stings.
Torrey Craig, who was surprisingly only played in the fourth quarter of their loss at Toronto, had a career night. He remembered how he had success against the Nets last season by crashing the glass, rebounding.
He was signed in the offseason for his toughness and defense, and he also provided a boost offensively for a group that needed it.
He finished with a career-high 28 points, 11 rebounds, three assists in 34 minutes. “I just wanted to come out and be aggressive. I knew guys were out, I knew I had an opportunity to step up and that’s what I tried to do.”
Craig dealt with a shoulder injury to start the season, but says it’s feeling better and “not hindering me in anyway.”
“He was our best player on the floor tonight and it was great to see,” Carlisle added.
Point guard Malcolm Brogdon missed his first game of the season due to a left hamstring strain. T.J. McConnell replaced him in the starting lineup and had a rough shooting night, as did Brad Wanamaker. They combined to go 4 for 19.
The Pacers’ activity level improved, however, and led to 19 fast break points, more than twice their per-game average (8.2), plus 23 points off turnovers.
In the third quarter of a four-point game, a situation was wrongly officiated. McConnell took a take foul on Durant to prevent a transition basket with 4:40 remaining. Durant then chucked the ball in frustration with the backboard in mind, but it ended up many rows up on the baseline.
That immediately brought back memories of Paul George in 2016, when he kicked the ball at the basket stanchion and it went into the stands. And Carlisle should remember how Mavericks star Luka Doncic did something similar in Indianapolis. He kicked the ball into the stands in 2019 and it was an automatic ejection — the first in the career of both players.
This paragraph from the NBA Rule Book is straightforward: Section V – Conduct: r. Any player who throws or kicks the ball directly into the stands with force, regardless of the reason or where it lands, will be assessed a technical foul and ejected.
I know the rule, Carlisle knows the rule so the game officials should know it too.
“I think I saw Kevin Durant wind up and throw the ball overhand 10 or 15 rows into the stands, and not get ejected,” Carlisle said during his opening comments. “I think that’s what I saw and so that was shocking.
“I’m not going to share the explanation because I don’t want to embarrass the officials, I don’t want to embarrass the league. I just don’t. These guys are nice guys and they just made a big error. The league will address it. You don’t want to hear the explanation, and at this point it doesn’t matter because it’s not going to change the outcome.
“It’s something that’s a significant thing that just can’t be missed.”
There is a designated pool reporter for each game, one local beat reporter who communicates with the league if a situation like this comes up. In this case, it was Greg Logan of Newsday. So I reached out to him when it happened, then he put in a request with the league and was put on a Zoom call with crew chief Sean Wright, who gave the following response.
“In real time, the official that made the call did not think the ball entered the stands with force. After seeing the video postgame, we did see that the ball did go into the stands with force and Kevin Durant should’ve been ejected.”
Logan with a great follow-up question: “Did Rick Carlisle complain that Durant was not ejected?”
“He made mention of it,” Wright replied.
So Durant, who finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, remained in the game. He hit both free throws and a jumper, then assisted on their next three baskets. So it absolutely made a difference.
“I tried to hit it off the backboard, but I still shouldn’t have even did that,” he admitted. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I thought I was at the gym by myself, a pickup game not an NBA game. I can’t do that, I couldn’t cost my team the game. It won’t happen again.”
While that’s not an excuse for the Pacers loss, it was a huge contributing factor. Being outscored by 23 points in the middle two quarters and held to less than 25 points in each of the final three was not favorable, neither was the difference at the foul line.
The Pacers never led in the first half — they’ve trailed entering the fourth in all five losses — but even with Durant playing they tied the game at 90 with 5:15 to go. Then Harden sank a floater and two more free throws, Joe Harris made a layup and LaMarcus Aldredge, who became the 48th player to reach 20,000 points, scored at the rim. That’s eight unanswered and the Pacers are still without a road win.
“Right now, we just got to hang in,” Carlisle said. “Hang in and keep fighting. … Overall, I see a lot of positives. We’re up against it with our injury situation, but we just got to stay in the fight.”
The Pacers don’t have much time to rest or think about how this one played out. They host the Raptors Saturday night, their second time playing in four days. It’s their third game in four nights and they were without Brogdon, Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren due to injuries.
Isaiah Jackson’s Injury Update
The Pacers were afraid center Isaiah Jackson suffered a significant injury that would cost him much of his rookie season. He underwent tests at the arena on Wednesday, then consulted with multiple doctors. Read exactly what happened here.
Before Friday’s game, the Pacers announced that he sustained a hyperextended left knee and will be week-to-week. So while he’ll miss time in the short term, it’s much better than they thought.
“All glory to god,” he tweeted.
That’s great news on Jackson’s injury.