Pacers aim to stop skid at home vs. Nets

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Slow starts and fourth-quarter struggles have resulted in a five-game losing streak for the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers hope to solve both issues and snap their skid Monday night when they host the Brooklyn Nets, whom they beat decisively twice on the road in the opening weeks of the season.

The Pacers are on their first five-game skid since Dec. 26, 2017 to Jan. 3, 2018, and are hoping to avoid their first six-game skid since Feb. 8-16, 2017.

During their last five fourth quarters, the Pacers were outscored 151-127 and gave up late runs to their opponents. After allowing a 12-4 run in the fourth quarter of a 115-106 home loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, the Pacers gave up a 10-2 burst and took a 124-117 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.

“We’re not closing,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “We’re not getting it done on either end of the floor. We had some possessions where you go up by two, you’ve got to get stops. We did get stops and we didn’t score, and that’s something that we’ve done this year. But in these last five games, we aren’t closing out games and making the plays to win these games whether it’s getting a stop or making a basket.”

Indiana shot 62 percent in the fourth quarter Friday, but also allowed New Orleans to shoot 63 percent in the final 12 minutes.

First quarters also are a problem for the Pacers, who are being outscored 146-110 in the opening 12 minutes and trailed by double digits after the opening quarter in two games during the skid.

“We just have to find a way to get a win,” Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb said after scoring 26 points Saturday. “We’re in a fog right now.”

In recent meetings against Brooklyn, the Pacers have hardly played like a team in a fog. They have won 11 of the 12 meetings and their 29-point win in Brooklyn on Nov. 18 was the largest margin of victory in the all-time series.

Brooklyn heads to Indiana without Kyrie Irving, who is expected to miss his fourth straight game with a sprained right knee. The Nets are 5-3 in their last eight games but are a combined 3-10 against the top six teams in the Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn followed up a 22-point home win over Phoenix on Monday, and a 41-point home win over league-worst Golden State on Wednesday by nearly coming back from an 18-point deficit and falling short in a 119-118 loss at Toronto on Saturday.

Caris LeVert scored a career-high 37 points Saturday and is averaging 29.7 points in his last three games since being elevated to the starting lineup. He missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer Saturday and the Nets took the loss after Joe Harris missed a putback at the buzzer.

“We’re not really in the business of moral victories or anything like that,” LeVert said. “I would much rather have just played OK and got the win.”

–Field Level Media

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