Pacers Drop Weekend Back-to-Back
In a pair of early Eastern Conference playoff seeding battles, Al Jefferson and the Indiana Pacers came up just short against the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards.
On night one of a Friday-Saturday back-to-back, the Pacers trails for most of the opening stanza, but Big Al kept the game close late in the quarter.
With 37 seconds left, Al set a screen for Monta Ellis and rolled to the paint, where Ellis threw the ball over the defense back to Al, who converted the lay up opportunity. The two teamed up again with 16 seconds left in the quarter when Al displayed fantastic court vision to fire a pass from the top of the 3-point line to a streaking Ellis in the paint for a turnaround jumper.
Al stayed in to start the second and was part of a group that outscored the Wizards 20-5 to start the quarter. Al carried over his success from the end of the first, taking a dish from Ellis at the free throw line, faking a pass and sinking the jumper with 8:28 left. Working against Marcin Gortat, Big Al showed off his best Kareem Abdul-Jabbar impression with a hook shot over the Washington big man that gave the Pacers a 47-38 lead and forced a Wizards timeout.
Washington got back in the game with an 11-6 run, though, and the teams went into the locker room tied at 59.
The Wizards took the lead out of the break on an 8-2 run, but Indiana clawed back, eventually taking a 72-70 lead on a Lavoy Allen jumper with 5:39 left in the quarter. Washington regained control on a 10-2 run, but the Pacers again fought back, scoring seven straight to cut the lead to one. Two quick buckets in the final 30 seconds gave the Wizards an 86-81 lead going into the final 12 minutes.
The Pacers outscored Washington 8-2 to open the fourth to take an 89-88 lead with 8:48 to play, but the Wizards scored the next five to take a lead they wouldn’t lose the rest of the way. Indiana cut the lead to one three times over the rest of the quarter but were unable to get over the hump.
Al finished with six points, eight rebounds, and an assist in 17 minutes for an impressive plus/minus of plus-14.
The Pacers shot just 4-for-21 from beyond the arc while the Wizards were 10-of-29.
Indiana got into an early funk against the Bucks the next night with key contributors Paul George and Jeff Teague stymied early. The second unit was key in keeping the Pacers in the game early. In the second quarter Al was responsible for multiple possessions against Greg Monroe, working against him for a jumper and a layup in the second.
Despite the Pacers’ best efforts, Milwaukee shot better than 50 percent from the field in the first half.
Indiana came out of the break inspired on 90’s Night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and ripped the Bucks on a 10-0 run out of the locker room. However, Milwaukee called timeout and went on a 9-0 run of its own to regain control.
Al fought back in the fourth, hitting a jump shot off an Ellis assist. A possession later, he took a Rodney Stuckey pass for a layup. That basket cut the Milwaukee lead to 11, but Indiana couldn’t crawl any closer the rest of the way in the third.
Indiana got as close as eight in the fourth quarter before the Bucks put the game away.
“We just have to get it together,” said Al after the game.”We played so well the last couple weeks and now we’re on a three-game skid. We just have to get it going before the All-Star break.
The Pacers unusually tough February continues on Tuesday with a visit from Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs. Tip off is at 7 p.m. EST.