Running Thoughts: Pacers flat in LA, witness The Ivica Zubac Game in loss to Clippers
They were down two at half, then scored a season-low 12 points in the third and shot just 21% from outside in their fourth straight road loss to the Clippers.
Here are my running thoughts from the Pacers’ 114-100 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday afternoon at Crypto.com Arena.
Andrew Nembhard (left knee bruise) missing his fourth straight game.
Two-way Kendall Brown accompanied the Pacers on the trip while Trevelin Queen remains with the Mad Ants.
This one loses much of its appeal as the Clippers are without both stars, Kawhi Leonard (ankle sprain) and Paul George (hamstring strain).
In case you forgot: former Pacers Brian Shaw and Dahntay Jones are assistants on Ty Lue's LAC coaching staff.
Rick Carlisle is doing a good job of acknowledging the challenge ahead with this seven-game, 12-day road trip while also downplaying the uniqueness and not trying to make it seem like too much. Other teams have this more often. Like the Spurs, who have a NINE-game roadie in February. Typically, though, the Pacers go out west for two five-game trips each season.
Carlisle before leaving: “This trip is long, it’s unprecedented, it’s historic in a lot of ways. We just got to keep going day to day, game to game and stick together, find ways to make small improvements. This will be a great test for us.”
TV broadcast shows Buddy Hield slapping hands with the bench before tip. Wait, was that a special handshake with Carlisle? Definitely have to ask about that.
Jalen Smith gets the Pacers on the board with a long 2, then hits a 3-pointer. That has to feel good because he hasn’t been shooting well. Just 22% from 3 in November, and he’s 2 for 23 over the last six games. That’s led him to return to the court after the past two games to get more shots up. That isn’t unique, but it shows how he’s not content and is putting in the extra work.
Tyrese Haliburton continues to pass at an elite level. His court vision is special and he’s a pass-first guard who has the awareness to both find the open man and pass teammates open when they need to get going. He tallied SEVEN assists in the first nine minutes.
The Pacers were up by eight and putting together a rare positive start, then were outscored 16-2 over the final three minutes. Their only basket was a layup from Myles Turner. Clippers up 35-29.
The first quarter was all about Ivica Zubac, the Clippers’ 7-foot, 240-pound center who got whatever he wanted. His 14 points were his career-high for a single quarter, plus nine rebounds and two blocks. Pacers need to address their interior defense because 26 of LA’s 35 points were scored in the paint.
Turner tagged with his third foul just 34 seconds into the second. That hurts, especially with the ease at which the Clippers are scoring inside.
Zubac returns to the game and Smith then replaces Jackson. Offensively, Smith made his first five shots, including three from downtown, and would’ve made a sixth — a layup — but it was blocked by Nicolas Batum.
The Pacers are fortunate to only be down by two, 59-57. Both teams shot 50% and the lead ping-ponged. The difference is the Clippers winning the paint.
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Pacers successfully went at Zubac on the first possession and he was whistled for his third foul while trying to contest a shot by Turner. Foul trouble might be the only thing to slow him down. (Spoiler: That turned out to be true.)
This one is getting out of hand. Clippers’ lead balloons to 15 via a 20-7 run to start the half as Zubac piles up 22 & 21.
2:45: Finally getting a different look at center with the more physical Goga Bitadze to challenge Zubac. Unsure if that’ll solve the problem, but they had to change it up — more than just sending a double at Zubac. Might want to throw the veteran James Johnson at him as well.
The third couldn’t end soon enough, it was their worst of the season. They were outscored 23-12, missed 18 of 22 shots, went 0 for 12 from range and trail 82-69.
91-71: Clippers have opened up a 20-point lead and the Pacers aren’t showing any signs of breaking through this rut.
Tough shooting night for all Pacers, but especially Hield. He’s 0 for 7 from 3, 2 for 12 overall. I don’t expect for this to faze him; he’s a shooter and these games happen. He’ll continue with his specific pre-game routine and hope to flip the script tomorrow night.
6:15: Down by 18 and with another game in 28 hours, Carlisle removes all the starters. Brown and Terry Taylor getting valuable playing time.
3:40: Ty Lue was letting Zubac finish this special, career-best game despite their big lead. But then T.J. McConnell drew the foul, Zubac’s sixth.
So no 30/30 game as Zubac fouls out with 31 points, one shy of his career-high, and 29 rebounds — the most by any player this season. He made 14 of 17 shots and all were in the paint. Unacceptable by the Pacers to allow this.
2:35: Down 106-90, the Pacers are fouling 39% foul shooter Moses Brown, a center on a two-way deal, on consecutive possessions. That can be done freely before the two-minute mark. He made 3 of 4.
No feel-good story here. The Clippers cruised to their 12th win this season.
Official attendance: 16,805.
Before the season, the front office talked about expecting some special games as well as some poor ones. Coming off an 8-2 stretch with predominantly home games, this one — two days after an 11-point win over the Nets with six players in double figures — was a stinker.
Carlisle: “This is a situation where you’ve got to have one, two, three guys helping out on him (Zubac) in there, and we didn’t do it. He had a dominant game.”
Including Zubac, six Clippers finished in double figures. And again, it was without PG and Leonard.
It was competitive for one half, featuring eight ties and 10 lead changes. And on most nights, a 13-point deficit entering the final quarter would not have been too much to overcome; not for this group. But they just didn’t have it tonight.
The Pacers shot a season-low 21% (9 of 42) from 3, yet still outscored the Clippers by nine points. The Clippers were 6 of 32 from downtown.
The one Pacer to spotlight is Jalen Smith. He scored 19 of his career-high 23 points in the first half and grabbed nine rebounds.
Haliburton (15 points, 11 assists) dished out 11 or more assists in the fifth straight game. He's averaging 18.3 points per game in November, but I know he’s annoyed to be shooting just 33% from beyond the arc.
For the second time in three games, the Pacers were handled on the glass. It was 62-39 (after 50 to 30 against the Timberwolves) and they allowed 66 paint points.
They’ve now lost four in a row to the Clippers on the road. Last win was in 2018.
Up next: They will play a different opponent, but no need to board a plane or even change hotels. It’s a late one back in Indy on Monday as the Pacers complete a back-to-back against the Los Angeles Lakers, set to tip-off at 10:30 p.m. ET.
LeBron James is listed as probable to play, Anthony Davis is questionable.