Indy Drops Two Western Conference Road Tilts
Big Al Jefferson continued his run of strong play, but the Indiana Pacers dropped their weekend matchups 108-96 to the Los Angeles Lakers and 109-100 against the Utah Jazz.
Al posted his best game of the season on Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings, but it only took him a half of play against the Lakers to match that performance. No. 7 finished with 20 points, six rebounds, two steals and an assist—his second 20-point game in a Pacers uniform.
Midway through the first half in L.A., the Pacers had more turnovers than points as both teams got off to slow starts. Al entered with 1:43 left in the first quarter and provided a glimpse of what was to come with an easy post up and jumper over Ivica Zubac. Al continued to go back to that well all night. On the very next possession, he spun around Zubac for an and-one layup opportunity, which he converted for a quick five-point start to his night.
Back to work to start the second quarter with 11:00 left, Al worked against Tarik Black and backed him towards the basket before flicking in a short jumper. Al stayed matched up with Black on the next possession and drove baseline to force a foul, converting both shots from the charity stripe. The offensive show continued, with another jumper over Zubac on the next possession.
Monta Ellis and Al had their offensive chemistry working at the end of the second quarter. With 8:40 left in the half, Al took a give from Ellis in the paint and converted another and-one opportunity. An Aaron Brooks three on the next Pacers possession capped a six-point swing for Indiana and forced a Lakers time out.
Ellis and Big Al were right back to work, though, with the two running a two-man game into the paint before Ellis threw a wraparound pass to Al under the hoop for a layup. While the Pacers lead 53-51 at halftime, the story of the half was missed opportunities as Indiana was only able to convert 14 Laker turnovers into 13 points.
The teams remained close at the start of the third but it soon became a game of runs after that. A 7-0 L.A. spurt forced a Pacers timeout with 8:18 to go in the quarter. The run reached 12 before a Jeff Teague layup put a stop to the momentum. That bucket sparked a 7-0 run for the Pacers, which kept the game close. Sloppy play by Indiana led to an 11-2 run by the Lakers that gave them a 12-point lead with 2:20 to go in the third.
Al opened the fourth quarter with a great kick out pass to Myles Turner for a jumper that cut the lead to nine, but the Pacers didn’t come any closer rest of the way.
“I just saw them scrap harder, they wanted the ball more,” said Pacers head coach Nate McMillan. “You certainly can’t allow a team to out-scrap you in order to get a road win.”
PACERS COME UP SHORT IN SALT LAKE
There was no rest for the weary, though, as the Pacers were in Utah to take on the Jazz and former Indy point guard George Hill the next night.
An early 13-5 Utah lead triggered by Rudy Gobert forced an early Pacers timeout and an earlier-than-usual entrance for Al with 5:15 left in the first.
Big Al’s first points on Saturday night came by way of Ellis, who drove hard into the paint in the final minutes of the first before throwing back out to Al at the 3-point line. Al quickly handed the ball off to Aaron Brooks, giving him the opportunity to lose the defense for an elbow jumper.
With 40 seconds left in the opening stanza, No. 7 worked against Derrick Favors, backing him into the point to get close enough for a turnaround jumper. Al continued to take advantage of Favors to open the second quarter, backing him down and using a spin-to-drop-step move for a clear path to the basket and a layup.
While Utah, one of Big Al’s former teams, threatened the pull away multiple times in the second, Indiana stayed within striking distance and was able to keep the deficit at 10 going into halftime.
A strong third-quarter team all season, the Pacers scored the first six points out of the break to force a Utah timeout. The run moved to 10-2 to cut the Jazz lead to two, but Utah regained control, scoring the next seven points. Overall, Utah outscored the Pacers 23-12 the rest of the quarter.
After the Jazz pushed their lead to 18 at the start of the fourth, the Pacers clawed back to get back to within 10 points with 4:30 to play. With a chance to get the lead under double digits, Thaddeus Young fumbled a fast break opportunity and Indiana couldn’t break through down the stretch.
Al finished Saturday night with seven points and four rebounds in 14 minutes.
The Pacers welcome the New York Knicks to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday night. Both teams are come in on two game losing streaks. The season series between the two Eastern Conference foes is tied at 1-1. Tip off is at 8 p.m. EST.