INDIANAPOLIS – For nearly three months the Pacers had a feeling of De’ja Vu when it came to playing games at home-and it was in a good way.
Fifteen consecutive trips to the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse resulted in victorious walks off the court as the team put together their most impressive streak at home in nearly a decade.
Yet fortunes in the National Basketball Association flip quickly and sometimes seem cruel over the course of an 82-game season, and Frank Vogel’s team has found that out the hard way the past two times at home.
In fact, the very hard way.
After dropping a four-point lead in the final seconds against Toronto on Friday night to lose a shot at a 16th straight home victory Indiana was handed a second straight defeat in nearly the same circumstances. The Pacers watched a four-point lead slip away in the final seconds against the Nets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday and as they did against the Raptors found themselves on the short end in overtime.
An 89-84 loss to Brooklyn stings the team nearly as much as 15 victories picked it up in the early to mid part of the season.
“This is a tough one to deal with,” said center Roy Hibbert afterwards in a dejected locker room that at the same time tried to put the repeat loss in perspective.
All of the ground picked up in the Pacers’ long home winning streak wasn’t hurt badly by the back-to-back losses as the team still retains first in the Central Division by a half-game and is in third in the Eastern Conference standings and will host the struggling Bobcats to close out the first half on Wednesday.
“We looked at our mistakes at the end of the game against Toronto, we’ll look at the mistakes tonight,” said Frank Vogel as he tried to explain how the team will move forward. “We didn’t get stops when we needed to. It’s a long season, we’ll just learn from it and grow.”
Perhaps that will be reinforced after the repeat ending on Monday night. While not as dramatic as the Raptors’ defeat-one in which the Pacers lost a four-point lead with ten seconds left and then in overtime on a shot with a second left-the same themes were prevalent again on the home floor. Even with Paul George (1-of-10 shooting) and David West (2-11 shooting) well off their game the Pacers appeared to have the victory in hand when George Hill put in a lay-up with 1:38 to go to give Indiana a four-point lead.
Once again, however, the Pacer defense couldn’t hold it. Reggie Evans and Tyshawn Taylor hit a free throw each on the next two Nets possessions and when the Pacers failed to score for a third straight time, Joe Johnson tied things up with a 10-foot bank shot. West’s one-handed shot as time expires was no good, sending the contest in overtime.
“We tried to tell the service people in the gym to take the lid off the rim but they didn’t hear me,” said Hill jokingly in talking about the team’s inability to hit a shot late to close it out. “At the same time, those are shots they normally make.”
Yet on Monday the misses kept coming as the game entered the extra session. The Pacers connected on just two-of-ten shots in the final session, one in which the Nets shot 57 percent and pulled away for the victory.
“We just didn’t hit shots towards the end. We got the shots that we wanted to,” said Hibbert, as the team missed a shot at redemption after losing nearly the same type of game a few days earlier.