You’ve heard this story before.
The Indiana Pacers start off the game slow, let the opposing team get a lead around 20 points. Then, suddenly, usually sparked by something mildly insane that Lance Stephenson did or a pull-up 3-pointer by Victor Oladipo, the Pacers look like a different team and go on a huge run. The atmosphere is intense. The Banker’s Life Fieldhouse crowd is going crazy. They end up winning by late heroics from Oladipo as he points down to the court, letting everyone know, “This is My City. This is Our House.”
Tonight, the comeback came against the Brooklyn Nets as the Pacers improved to 19-14 on the season and 3-0 against the Nets as they sit in 4th in the Eastern Conference.
Per Pat Boylan, the Pacers have been down by double digits in six of their last seven home games and by at least 16 points in five of those seven home games. Despite this, the Pacers won four of the seven and had a chance in the fourth quarter at winning every one of them.
They were down to the Chicago Bulls by 17. The Pacers ended up winning on a pull-up 3-pointer from Oladipo with 30 seconds left that gave the Pacers their first lead of the game as they won 98-96.
“I thought we came out flat,” coach Nate McMillan said after the Bulls game. “I don’t know why, or if we thought it was going to be easy, but what I learned from the team tonight, they stuck together. I felt they believed the entire time they were going to get it right and win this game. It took us all 48 minutes to get control of this game.”
In the next home game, the Pacers held the Cavaliers in range all game and trailed by six at one point. The Pacers won 106-102. No large comeback necessary.
The Pacers trailed the Denver Nuggets by 19 points in the first half and by eight points with just three minutes remaining. Victor Oladipo scored 47 points and led the Pacers to an overtime victory by a final of 126-116.
“You have to give your home crowd something to cheer for,” said McMillan after the Nuggets game. “We want to try and make this a special building. A building that is tough for other teams to win in. When we’re playing the way we’ve played, our crowd gets fired up and it fires up the players.”
The Pacers luck with these comebacks started to turn after the Denver game, however. They were down by 11 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the return of Paul George. They came back to take the lead, but the Thunder ended up winning 100-95.
The Pacers got behind to the Detroit Pistons by 16. They eventually cut the lead to two but couldn’t finish off the comeback this time, falling short by a final of 104-98. They came back from a 23-point deficit at home against the Pistons early in this season.
“I said after the game, we’ve got to stay confident, stay positive, stay aggressive,” Oladipo, said after the loss. “Because at the end of the day, we’ve been in that position before. When we’ve won, everybody’s excited, everybody’s happy. Now it didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but we learn from it, we move on.”
In the most recent home game before tonight, the Boston Celtics led the Pacers by 19 points before they stormed back and nearly pulled off the upset against the current top seed in the Eastern Conference as Bojan Bogdanovic threw an inexcusable pass instead of holding the ball to be fouled and handed the game to the Celtics. (King Victor forgave him.)
“It’s a tough loss, a tough, tough loss. We’ve gotta have a better start,” said Oladipo after the Celtics game. “It was just a crazy game. We dug ourselves the deepest hole you can imagine and again, fought our way back like clockwork but we came up short again. A few games before we came out on the winning end, but tonight, not so much, obviously.”
And tonight, the Pacers looked ready to spend some time with their families for Christmas in the first half as they trailed the Brooklyn Nets by 19 points. No problem for the Pacers though as they took the lead back in the 3rd quarter and eventually won in overtime by a final of 123-119.
“We still gotta get off to better starts,” Myles Turner said after tonight’s game, “… but I like the way we’re responding. Every game I think we had in this home stretch we dug ourselves in a hole but we always found ourselves a way to get out of it. We were able to do so successfully tonight.”
In total, the Pacers went 3-2 in games they were down by 16+ points at home. Resiliency, thy name is Indiana.
“We’re very resilient,” said Thaddeus Young. “We’re always going to fight through adversity. We’re going to continue to fight no matter what. We had a bad first half, but we came out and took care of business in the second half.”
The Pacers know this isn’t something they can continue to let happening, but their proud of the way they continue to fight and never give in no matter the deficit.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” said McMillan after the latest second-half rally. “It’s a different team in the second half. … It’s good to be home, but we’ve got to play the game the right way. We’ve gotta continue to move the ball. We’ve got to continue to work together.”
Many of the Pacers felt that ball movement and defensive intensity have been a lot better in the second half of these come-from-behind runs.
“When we move the ball, we’re one of the better teams in this league,” said Darren Collison.
“I think it’s just playing together and feeding off each other,” said Stephenson on the team’s ability to keep coming back.
The Pacers haven’t been blown out in a game that wasn’t against the Houston Rockets since November 8th against the Detroit Pistons despite the multiple double-digit deficits. Every time the Pacers get down, it’s not been a question of if they’ll get back into the game, but when.
It’s yet another reason that this Pacers team has been more fun than ever this season.
“We can’t let this keep happening in the first half,” said Young. “Hopefully, next home game we can get it together and come out to a great start.”
If they don’t, we know they’ll fight back into it regardless.