Friday, March 7, 2014 at 9:30 PM ET at Toyota Center
Game Rewind: Pacers at Rockets
Scott Agness | March 8, 2014, 12:35 AM
Settled in for their third game in four nights, the Pacers looked to avoid losing three in a row for the first time all season. They were one of three teams, including Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers, that hadn’t — until Friday’s game in Houston.
The Pacers (46-16) scored two quick buckets in the third quarter to make it a three-point game, but were then outscored 38-12 over the final 10 minutes. The Rockets (42-19), who’ve now won four straight and six of their last seven games, once led by 32 and delivered Indiana its largest loss of the season, 112-86.
Call it payback for the Pacers’ 33-point drumming of the Rockets in Indy back on Dec. 20. That loss remains the Rockets’ worst of the season.
The teams felt each other out for the first seven minutes. After Indiana went ahead 12-10 on a layup from Lance Stephenson, Houston, the third place team in the Western Conference, outscored them 17-4 over the final five minutes. The Rockets’ ball movement was exceptional, leading to 10 assists on 12 baskets and three 3-pointers after just four all game last meeting.
The Rockets then added to their double-digit lead, getting up 40-24. The Pacers had a dreadful sequence where they were whistled for three straight charging fouls, and turned it over on five of six possessions. Roy Hibbert, who had the tough assignment of facing an athletic Dwight Howard, ended a Rockets’ 7-0 spurt with a 15-foot jumper.
Despite six turnovers in the second period and trailing by as many as 16 points, the Pacers managed to cut it to seven, 50-43, at the break. David West scored eight of his team-high 15 points in the quarter.
Initially, things were looking up for the Pacers one minute into the second half. Paul George nailed back-to-back shots, which made it a one-possession game. And then the Rockets broke loose. James Harden hit three shots beyond the arc and had 16 points in the period to match Indiana’s total. The Pacers, meanwhile, gave up 38 points, the most of any quarter this season, and dragged into the final stanza down by 29.
It’s now back to the drawing board for the Pacers. Their loss in Charlotte on Wednesday night was arguably their most disturbing of the season, whereas Friday’s game in Houston was their worst margin of defeat.
After winning six of seven, they’ve now dropped three straight and their last two have been by an average of 24 points. Even more concerning, the Pacers are 13-9 over their last 22 games. With just 20 games remaining in the regular season, Indiana’s lead on Miami is down to just one and half games.
Inside the Numbers
Just two Indiana starters finished in double figures. One game after managing just two points, Paul George had 13. With 15 points and 10 rebounds, David West registered his eighth double-double of the season. The Pacers were previously unbeaten (7-0) when he did so.
The Pacers drop to 1-5 when their opponent shoots 50 percent or better, as the Rockets did — 52.6 percent. Without playing a minute in the final quarter, James Harden led all scorers with 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting. The Pacers had a difficult time slowing Dwight Howard, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin each added 11.
Houston had the advantage inside and in transition, outscoring the Pacers 48-30 and 21-11, respectively. Indiana’s backcourt (George Hill and Lance Stephenson) was responsible for eight points to Houston’s 35.
With 112 points in this one, Houston has won its last 21 games in which they’ve topped the century mark.
With their first defeat on a Friday (9-1), the Pacers have now suffered a loss on every day of the week.
“We missed a few shots and they went on a run. They broke the game open in the third quarter with run-outs for threes. We didn’t handle that well and at that point, the game was in hand.” – Frank Vogel their chance in the third quarter
“Every team I’ve ever been a part of has had a stretch like we’re in right now. Since I’ve been here, we’ve always worked our way out of it. I’m sure we will. It stings right now, it’s not fun right now, but we got a good team and we’ll regroup.” – Frank Vogel
“We're not the same team and I feel like last year, even the beginning of this year, we would always impose our will, play physical. I feel like now we're at a point where we're letting teams [do] what they want to do and not imposing our will. We just have to figure out how to get back to mucking the game up." - George Hill
“We just need to win games at this point. We're just putting the emphasis on trying to get better. Since the All-Star Break we haven't been playing the best basketball" - Roy Hibbert
"We knew how to beat them so it was a matter of us going out there. When we hold the ball and let them set up defensively, then they're great. If we play fast like we did and make plays for each other then we're hard to beat.” - Rockets swingman James Harden
Stat of the Game
The Rockets connected on 13 3-point field goals, going 9-of-18 during the critical first three quarters, and outscored the Pacers by 18 beyond the arc.
- Entering this contest, the Pacers had won four straight meetings, including four of their last five games at the Toyota Center.
- A technical foul was charged to George Hill in the second quarter, his third of the season.
- Pacers guard C.J. Watson missed his second straight game due to a sprained right elbow.
- Among those in the stands: NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, Tracy McGrady, Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson and Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin.
- The Rockets recorded their 29th sellout of the season, a new single-season record at the Toyota Center.
Sunday, March 9 at Dallas – 7:30 p.m. ET