'Playing like we did tonight is a losing recipe': Rick Carlisle wants more competitiveness after second straight loss

Message was sent and delivered. Now will the Pacers respond? And how will they adjust to the physical play?

There’s many ways the Pacers have underperformed in the first month of the season, but there’s one that has been painfully obvious in the past two games.

Their spirit, their competitiveness, their force is lacking at both ends. What about the blue collar, gold swagger mentality? When they play tough and put it all together, as they did last week against the Jazz and 76ers, the potential for this group is intriguing.

And when they don’t, oof. It’s been tough to watch.

“… This is a hard-play issue,” Rick Carlisle said on Wednesday. “They played harder, they took us out of the majority of things we were trying to do offensively in the first half. … I think as a team, we did not compete together enough, consistently enough to win the game.”

The Pacers lost their second straight game and the resemblance is striking. Like the Knicks on Monday, the Pistons played harder and with more fight, they bodied up and the Pacers looked out of sorts for much of the game.

In turn, it was the Pistons dictating how the game was played and they captured their fourth win of the season, 97-89.

“It was the clear the turnovers were killing us, they were converting on them,” said Malcolm Brogdon, who finished with a game-high 20 points and five turnovers. “We knew going into the game that we needed to take care of the ball but we didn’t, and it hurt us tonight.”

That’s been a reoccurring theme over the first 16 games. The Pacers (6-10) have committed more turnovers than their opponents in 11 of 16 games and that continued against the Pistons. They finished an ugly first half with as many turnovers (14) as field goals. And still, they were only down eight. Caris LeVert, who was 0 for 5 in the first half, scored the team’s first 12 points out of the break.

But the team failed to put the Pistons away when they had their chances. Instead, they capped the game off with another dreadful fourth quarter — the game was tied at 73 — after being outscored in both the first and second frames.

Two nights after shooting 2 for 10 and scoring 10 points in the final period Monday in New York, the Pacers followed that up with 6-of-20 shooting and 16 points in this one. The Pistons made more free throws (8) than the Pacers made shots (6).

“It’s a 48-minute game and if you consistently lose the first quarter, you’re going to lose more than your share of NBA games,” Carlisle said. “It’s hard to dig out of that hole and things in the first, second quarter translate to the second half and the fourth quarter.

“I can’t compliment (Detroit’s) hard play enough, it was to the point where they were so physical that whistles just simply weren’t blowing. At halftime, we decided that we had to just bear down, not pay attention to what was happening with whistles, and get more aggressive ourselves.”

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