Double-digit deficits become bad habit for Pacers

The Pacers are less comfortable playing at home this season, according to coach Nate McMillan and several players.

“We’re playing different at home I think than we do on the road,” McMillan said Saturday after a 123-119 overtime win over Brooklyn. “I think we get excited about our fan base and being in front of them, and we all want to entertain. You got to play the game the way we played in the second half.”

Some have already dubbed them the Cardiac Pacers because they sure know how to test the nerves of fans during games.

The Pacers have fallen behind by 16 or more points in five of their last seven home games, including Saturday’s matchup against the Brooklyn Nets. They trailed the Nets, who played the night before, by 19 in the first half.

“It’s just very positive,” Lance Stephenson said of the locker room at halftime. “We’re staying together. Nobody is arguing with each other. We come up to each other if somebody feels like somebody is doing something wrong.

The second half is a different story. They come out of the locker room and play a much better brand of basketball. Like on Saturday when they scored nine straight points and gave fans a reason to get rowdy. They even chanted M-V-P when Victor Oladipo was at the free throw line.

“What we’re not getting early is stops defensively,” McMillan added. “And I think we’re thinking about the offensive end of the floor. We’re taking quick shots, we’re not moving the ball, we’re not scoring, and I think that is carrying over to the defensive end of the floor.”

Led by 13 points and four rebounds in the third frame from Myles Turner, the Pacers made 76 percent of their shots, including six 3-pointers, and outscored the Nets by 15 points.

“I like the way we’re responding,” said Turner, who finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, and a career-tying six blocks. “Every game I think we’ve had here during this past home stretch we’ve dug ourselves in a hole but we’ve always found a way to get ourselves out of it.

“We just know that we’ve been in this situation a lot this season, more than we’d like, but we never get down or dejected. We just find a way to get ourselves out of it.”

Unlike the first half, the second half (and overtime) was entertaining. It was filled with drama like we’ve come to expect with this Pacers team. Like when Cory Joseph fouled Spencer Dinwiddie behind the arc. Dinwiddie made both shots to tie the game at 111 with 19.9 second left in regulation.

Still, the Pacers had a chance. Out of a timeout, the ball was in Oladipo’s hands. He pounded away at it, then made his move. Because of the matchup and his read, he decided to rise up from downtown rather than attack. He missed.

“Make the shot. That’s what I was looking to do,” he said of his look. “Something I’m going to make it, sometimes I’m not. It is what it is. Just a feel moment. I was just decisive and that was the shot I wanted.”

McMillan said that he would have liked to see Oladipo attack and force the Nets to stop him and the officials from not calling a foul. Vic, by the way, was 10-for-10 at the free throw line.

“He’s still learning how to play in situations like that with the ball in his hands late and the game is on the line,” McMillan said. “He hasn’t seen that a lot in his career. Certainly not last year with OKC and [Russell] Westbrook.

This overtime win snapped a three-game home losing skid and will make Christmas a little happier for members of the Pacers. They’re 19-14 and slotted fourth in the Eastern Conference standings behind Boston, Toronto, and Cleveland.

Yeah, nobody saw this coming. It’s still early, though. But the locker room is remaining even keeled about this strong, favorable start.

[Pacers empathize with Bojan Bogdanovic after his costly mistake]

On Tuesday, the day after Christmas, they will play just their second game in six games. They face a nine-win Dallas team at home on Wednesday, and then are in Chicago to play the Bulls, who have won just 10 games but have improved, Friday night.

“We can’t keep doing that because it’s going to come back to haunt us. We just got to get our energy up,” Stephenson said of their poor starts to games. All anyone remembers over an 82-game seasons is that you won. That’s important.

And the Pacers, who own a winning record on the road (8-7), have won all ten games against the bottom 12 teams in the NBA. They’re just making it more difficult than it needs to be, having to climb out of double-digit holes.

[Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

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