Bennedict Mathurin, the antagonist, a win streak, and secret conversations: PacersrecaP #30

In another battle against a team full of large wings, the Indiana Pacers came away saying, “Who needs wings anyway?” as they collected their fourth straight win and sixth in their last seven with a 122-114 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

In case you haven’t been here before, welcome to PacersrecaP where every column ends the way it began much like a Christopher Nolan film. Think of it like Tenet, confusing at first, no one knows what I’m talking about but slowly it starts to make more sense as time goes on. Or maybe I just like palindromes and couldn’t resist being clever for the sake of being clever … like a Christopher Nolan film.

In reality, this column tries to highlight the standout events, performances, and whatever else catches my eye in hopefully a fun and creative way. Let’s get to it:

Bennedict Mathurin is a glorious antagonist

Mathurin led the Pacers in scoring with 21 points and was a team-high +21 on the night where the bench units were the decisive factor in the victory. But better than the efficient night from the floor than featured more free throw attempts (7 for 10) than shot attempts (6 for 9) was how he was able to get under the skin of multiple members of the Raptors organization.

OG Anunoby got a technical foul after an uncalled Fred VanVleet take foul committed against Mathurin that eventually led to Mathurin running into the former Hoosier and Anunoby grabbed his arm before pushing him away. Then after Mathurin missed the free throw, a Raptors assistant coach had a few words for Mathurin.

The Pacers rookie, a man of few words, told Jamaal Magloire to “keep that same energy.”

The Pacers were down six to the Raptors with 3:25 left in the third quarter at the time of the play. Mathurin scored 6 points including the tough triple above and another couple trips to the free-throw line in that timeframe to help the bench take a 1-point lead heading into the fourth.

Mathurin, the troll, the antagonist, the guy you hate to play against, has been a developing trend over his rookie season. It goes back to his late-game steal against college teammate Dalen Terry with the game already decided and trash-talking Jaden Ivey against the Pistons. Not to mention how frustrating it can be to play against a guy that’s good at forcing referees to call fouls (though I’m thankful he’s making basketball moves when he earns his fouls far more than the flopping whistle hunters like James Harden and Jimmy Butler). I’d imagine playing against both him and the full-court pest in TJ McConnell has to be something opponents don’t enjoy especially second units.

Caitlin Cooper recently broke down Mathurin’s pet jab step move in a way that only she can. If you haven’t read it yet, you should fix that soon.

The bench wore the overworked Raptors down

Elsewhere on the bench TJ McConnell ran circles around Malachi Flynn and scored 15 points. He attempted a career high 7 free throws (he’d taken a total of 19 in his previous 34 games this season). Jalen Smith put up a double double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 17 minutes.

All five played off the bench were at least +9 and none of the Pacers starters were positive in this game thanks to slow starts in both halves. The Pacers bench outscored the Raptors bench 54-7 in this game but none of the guys off the opponent’s bench played all that much either.

The Pacers bench was able to keep the starters fresh for the fourth quarter as none of the starters played more than 32 minutes. Meanwhile, the Raptors ran out of gas trying to keep up with the pace of Indiana as all of their starters played at least 36 minutes and four of them played either 39 or 40 minutes.

Raptors starters trying to catch their breath in the fourth quarter

You could see the effects on the Raptors in their 3-point attempts as they made just 4 of their 21 shots from deep in the second half—including eight misses in the fourth that all seemed to fall short. Toronto started hot by making nine of their first 15 before going ice cold. The Pacers pulled off the reverse by making just two of their first 14 3-pointers and then finishing the rest of the game by making eight of their final 13 attempts with multiple coming from the fresh legs of the starters down the stretch.

Somehow I didn’t realize until today that former Pacers head coach (New) Nate Bjorkgren (seeing his face on the broadcast on the Raptors sideline was like suddenly remembering a strange dream from your childhood) obviously got his overwork-his-best-players-with-ludicrous-amount-of-minutes philosophy from his pal Nick Nurse. It doesn’t feel like it’ll be long before Nurse becomes the new Thibs in terms of poster child for high-minute loads.

Tyrese Haliburton and OG Anunoby have a post-game conversation they’d rather not be lip read

What could they be discussing? 🤔

After the final buzzer sounded, Tyrese Haliburton and OG Anunoby dapped each other up and conversed a bit before Haliburton covered his mouth with his hands to continue the conversation and Anunoby did the same.

This is likely nothing and silly to even spend any time on at all but … after Paul George and LeBron James had numerous moments like this post-game—before George requested to be traded to only the Lakers a year before James ended up in Los Angeles as a free agent—and Victor Oladipo openly asked opponents “can come play with y’all?”—before eventually getting to the place he “always wanted to go” in Miami—it’s hard not to let the mind wander at this moment a little bit.

What topics could they be covering that they wouldn’t want others to know about? Avoiding spoilers to the White Lotus for lip reading eavesdroppers? Considerate of them but unlikely as it’s been finished for weeks now. Perhaps they bet on the loser needing to share a secret ingredient of a family recipe? Everyone knows it’s nutmeg, OG. Just let it out.

Anunoby, the IU prospect that got away in the infamous TJ Leaf draft, is the ideal wing that the Pacers are missing. A defensive monster that leads the league in steals, can guard anyone on the floor most nights, and is a very capable offensive player. He’ll also be a highly coveted free agent in the summer of 2024 if he declines his player option. Don’t get carried away but store this in the old memory bank for down the road.

If the OG could fall into the Pacers lap, you know I’d walk 1,000 miles just to see that team play.

Stray Observations

  • The Pacers were picking on Thad Young for a few possessions. Myles Turner pulled off a move that I don’t think Young ever saw his former teammate do in practice or a game before as he drove down the lane and stopped suddenly before pivoting back into an easy jumper. Young went flying by as Turner picked up his dribble. Then Haliburton got him in the air with a fake lob pass and stepped right by him for a layup. They were two beautiful plays. Turner followed his 34-point outburst against the Clippers with an 18-point, 11-rebound effort that featured a ridiculous block in transition on Gary Trent, Jr.
  • Andrew Nembhard hasn’t had to be a lead guard like he was in Golden State but having another guy that’s a really good passer on the floor has been very fun for the Pacers starting group. He only had 3 assists but each of them were highlights: a lob to Turner, a bounce pass behind the defender to Turner that even Turner wasn’t expecting him to make but was still easily able to grab the perfect pass and finish, and a patient find to a cutting Aaron Nesmith. His defense has been fantastic all season and he’s an unbelievable glue guy for a rookie.

Tyrese Haliburton’s actions speak loudly. He’s an All Star.

“Give me the ball and the game will be over.”

That’s what Tyrese Haliburton told his teammates with the game tied before the final possession.

He wasn’t lying. No OT tonight.

Haliburton hit the game winning 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left to give the Indiana Pacers a 111-108 victory over the Miami Heat. 

The final triple set a Pacers franchise record with 10 3-pointers as Haliburton scored a career high 43 points while making 14 of his 20 shot attempts.

“I had to respond,” Haliburton said in the post-game interview. “Last time we played these guys they really held me in check, so I wanted to come out here and respond the right way.”

1 point in the last game against Miami to a career high in this one. Quite a response. A redemption arc as sweet and satisfying as a steamy mug of hot chocolate on a snowy evening.

This 43-point explosion followed his 33-point effort on the road against the Boston Celtics that led the Pacers (17-16) to a 117-112 win. On the season, he’s now averaging 20.7 points, 10.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.7 steals while shooting 48.5/40.5/87.8.

Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle called Haliburton an artist after the game and he painted a pair of masterpieces in the last two games. Against the Celtics, it went beyond his scoring as the league leader in assists had multiple no-look passes including this one that had Robert Williams III convinced he was passing it to the wing.

Against the Heat, Haliburton repeatedly shot at any time when he had even a glimmer of an opening. Particularly adept at getting off his looks, no matter how deep, in this one in the switch pocket. That brief moment where his defender stays attached to the screener but before the screener’s defender can get up to defend him. 

His artistry wasn’t limited to the offensive end either as he blocked a Victor Oladipo 3-point attempt at one end and it led to a transition 3-pointer on the other.

“No external motivation,” Haliburton said after the game of his play recently. “It’s all within myself.”

Yeah, sure, certain comments had nothing to do with the fire that’s been in your eye the last couple games, Tyrese. We’ll go with that. Actions speak louder than words and his actions are yelling two words very clearly: ALL STAR.

Stray Observations on Chris Duarte, Aaron Nesmith, Myles Turner, Jalen Smith, Pacers closing out games, and more from the last two games coming soon.

PacersrecaP #28: On Haliburton’s aggression, rotation questions as the Pacers fall below .500

The Indiana Pacers (15-16) are under .500 for the first time since early in the season after winning just 1 of their last 5 games. They are 4-9 over their last 13 contests and have fallen to 9th in the Eastern conference.

If you haven’t been here before, welcome to PacersrecaP where every column ends the way it began much like a Christopher Nolan film. Think of it like Tenet, confusing at first, no one knows what I’m talking about but slowly it starts to make more sense as time goes on. Or maybe I just like palindromes and couldn’t resist being clever for the sake of being clever … like a Christopher Nolan film.

Quick Summary of the Week’s Games:

  • The Pacers and the Heat played in a game that felt like it was from 20 years ago with a final score of 87-82. While it was good to see the Pacers have a tremendous defensive mindset following their lack of effort on defense and the glass against the Nets backups, they couldn’t overcome a late flurry of scoring by Jimmy Butler and an incredibly off-night from their star Tyrese Haliburton, who scored just 1 point and went 0 for 9 from the floor.
  • The Pacers swept the season series against the Golden State Warriors, which if I’m not mistaken makes them the NBA Champions now, with a 125-119 win. The Pacers scored 47 points in the second quarter and built a 20-point halftime lead and survived the Warriors comeback attempt as Steph Curry injured his shoulder and Draymond Green got ejected after complaining about an obvious foul call, though Green may have been an addition by subtraction in the Warriors comeback attempt as he scored just 1 point and had 3 assists and 6 turnovers.
  • The Pacers and the Cleveland Cavaliers faced off in the battle of teams without wings. The Pacers built a double-digit lead heading into the fourth but the offense struggled in the clutch scoring just 2 points in the final five minutes and Donovan Mitchell scored 18 of his 41 points in the fourth, leading the Cavs to a 118-112 win.
  • The Pacers had a 6-point lead with under two minutes to go but couldn’t close out the New York Knicks who won by a final score of 109-106. Aaron Nesmith had a career high 23 points and 10 rebounds but not enough shot making from the rest of the roster as the clutch-time offense failed the team again.

Tyrese Haliburton still finding the right balance between aggression and passivity

Haliburton started off the week with the worst game of his Pacers career, scoring just 1 point and missing all nine of his shots as he was flummoxed by the defense of Bam Adebayo who repeatedly ended up guarding him after switches. The problem, however, was less than he missed all nine of his shots but that he quit looking to take his shot and only had one attempt in the fourth quarter. There were a couple of possessions where Haliburton had a chance to take an open shot but hesistated and his window quickly closed.

In a game where the Pacers scored just 82 points, they needed more looks for their leader and couldn’t afford him to pass any up. Haliburton recognized that saying after the game that he has to do a better job understanding how quickly you can turnaround an 0-for-9 game. That’s why the most encouraging Haliburton game this week was not the next game against the Warriors where he dazzled with 29 points but the Cavaliers game where he missed all 8 of his 3-pointers but stayed aggressive all night and finished with 17 points and 14 assists by making all five of his 2-point attempts and making all seven of his free throws. Continue reading PacersrecaP #28: On Haliburton’s aggression, rotation questions as the Pacers fall below .500

PacersrecaP #26-27: Do the Pacers know what rebounding is?

59-30.

That’s how badly the Brooklyn Nets beat the Indiana Pacers on the glass. The Nets grabbed 29 offensive rebounds. The Pacers had 30 rebounds total.

So many of them were embarrassing, lack of effort rebounds on missed free throw attempts or plays where multiple Pacers just watched the ball fall to the ground and bounce to their opponent. It made you question whether the Pacers knew that they were allowed to grab the ball after the opposing team misses a shot.

Keep in mind the Nets were playing without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and every other Nets player than you’ve heard of besides former Pacers player Edmond Sumner, who scored 21 points and added 7 rebounds and 5 assists with a dazzling mix of speed and effort that was lacking from the Pacers roster.

Sumner had 4 offensive rebounds. Myles Turner had 3 total in 30 minutes. Jalen Smith had 3 total in 13 minutes. Isaiah Jackson had 2 total in 12 minutes.

Every Nets starter had at least 6 rebounds. Buddy Hield led the Pacers starters with 4. The only Pacers player with more than 4 rebounds was Bennedict Mathurin with 7.

After a strong start to the season with rebounding, the team was 29th in the league in rebounding percentage over the timeframe of their long road trip and they’ll continue to fall down in the standings for the entire season after they were dominated by Day’Ron Sharpe tonight.

There’s just not much else worthy of being said about this game. Unfortunately, the team wasted a fantastic shooting night from Tyrese Haliburton who scored 35 points on 12-of-15 shooting. They scored 76 points in the first half but none of it mattered because they couldn’t put in enough effort to grab rebounds against nine Nets players on mostly minimum contracts that scored 136 points.

This was one of the first games that really featured expectations for the Pacers (14-13) to win and boy did they disappoint. The lack of expectations has been part of what has made this season fun and it’s hard to take this team seriously as a potential playoff team if they can’t beat the second and third units of the Brooklyn Nets.

These kind of losses happen to everyone in a long NBA season, see the Warriors losing to the Andrew Nembhard-led Indiana Pacers last Monday but after giving up 40 points in the first quarter and 41 points in the fourth quarter you can’t blame anyone firing up the trade machine to see who might give up picks and young players for the Pacers veterans as they go back to dreaming of lottery luck.

This article was supposed to be about two games but this one was so bad that it’s hard to spend much time on the Pacers victory over the Wizards missing Bradley Beal.

Stray Observations:

  • Oshae Brissett was fantastic in both games scoring 16 against the Wizards and 14 against the Nets. He hit 3 triples in each game and has upped his 3-point percentage to 37% on the season. With Jalen Smith’s inconsistencies (0 for 7 last night, 5 for 10 tonight), it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Brissett eventually retake his starting spot in the lineup that he held for a good portion of last season.
  • Tyrese Haliburton has made 10 of his last 12 attempts from 3.
  • Mathurin’s slump continues. He’s now 3 for his last 28 from deep. Even when he hits one, it turns out he didn’t as he had his foot on the line on his one make from deep tonight that was correctly ruled a 2. Even with his shooting struggles, he has been efficient enough from the floor with 13 points on 9 shots and 18 points on 14 shots in these two games.
  • I am completely over replay reviews. They take too long, rarely affect the outcome of the game, and there’s just too many plays in a basketball game for any one moment to warrant a 5-minute review. Maybe the last two minutes but the end of games are already way slower than a game of basketball should be. On a semi-related note, I’m starting a pop punk band called Reckless Closeout. We’ll have auditions next week.
  • The Tyrese Haliburton / Buddy Hield press conference after the Wizards game alone made the trade a winner. If you haven’t watched this old married couple interview, you need to. Every minute is gold.

PacersrecaP #25: Pacers fall behind early, fall apart late in loss to Timberwolves

So, it may not be the best plan to fall behind by a ton of points and try to make comebacks for nearly all of your team’s wins. Who knew?

The Wolves were up 23 early in the second quarter. The Pacers came all the way back to be up 8 in the third quarter. Then, in a back and forth fourth quarter, the Pacers fell apart in the final minute and lost by a final score of 121-115.

There were plenty of positives to take away from this one. Perhaps the most important of them all: the West coast road trip is over. Rejoice all ye EST fans and respect to ye international watchers that watch these games live no matter the timezone; I seriously have no idea how you do it.

1. Tyrese Haliburton is back and back to his All-Star hopeful ways

Haliburton returned from his sore groin injury that caused him to miss two games and was back to immediately doing things that have never been done before. He had 26 points and 15 assists which is the first time any Pacers player has ever put up 25/15 in a game in franchise history. He also added three steals including a pair of fantastic free safety interceptions that stopped transition opportunities.

Haliburton struggled dealing with the length of Jaden McDaniels in the first game against the Wolves two weeks ago as he shot just 4 for 15 and scored only 10 points in one of the first games that teams tried to match him up with a longer wing this season. He made the necessary adjustments in the second chance against them tonight as he went 9 for 14 to break out of a little shooting slump of late. Continue reading PacersrecaP #25: Pacers fall behind early, fall apart late in loss to Timberwolves

PacersrecaP #22-24: Andrew Nembhard is not normal

No, that wasn’t a dream. Andrew Nembhard really did all that against the defending NBA champions.

This entire road trip for the Indiana Pacers could have been nothing but painful blowout losses if not for a particular second-round rookie. In the Pacers two wins over their last six games, Andrew Nembhard has been the difference maker in both. First, he hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer against the Los Angeles Lakers to finish off the 17-point fourth quarter comeback for Indiana’s 1-point win. Then, with the Pacers missing Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner, and others against the Golden State Warriors, Nembhard stepped up with the game of his life: 31 points, 13 assists, and 8 rebounds as he stunned everyone that stayed up late for the second straight Monday night.

Among the stunned were the professionals paid to play the game or broadcast it:

  • After his final 3 that saw him nearly drop Steph Curry to the ground before taking a stepback, Curry immediately turned around to look at Nembhard in complete disbelief, shaking his head.
  • Pacers TV broadcast legend Quinn Buckner was giddy and laughing at every Nembhard moment unable to contain the joy that comes from a rookie making play after play on the road down the stretch of the fourth quarter. I imagined this to be his face after each play.
You can hear Quinn’s giggles in all the second half highlights below.
  • Mark Boyle on the radio broadcast had a moment on that same stepback triple that can only be described as an out-of-body experience where he temporarily lost the ability to speak before post-Nembhard clarity set in and he plainly stated, “No, no, that didn’t happen … I am seeing this in real time and in person, and I’m not sure I believe what Nembhard is doing tonight.”

Nembhard scored 18 of his 31 points after halftime and did it all for the Pacers. He played all but two and a half minutes in the second half where the Pacers went from up eight points to down by one the possession he came back in after emergency backup point guard Trevelin Queen turned the ball over before coming out. After returning at 9:31, Nembhard scored or assisted on every Pacers basket the rest of the game. He moved the ball when necessary, hit huge shots at every needed moment including a stepback two against Jonathan Kuminga, a pair of deep triples, an alley oop that Isaiah Jackson into the stratosphere to retrieve and dunk it, and a running floater. 17 straight points over a 7-minute stretch was all Nembhard making my jaw drop more and more until I was on the floor struggling to see the television screen. Mathurin’s made free throws in the last couple minutes were the only points that Nembhard didn’t have a hand in after returning.

“It was amazing,” Jalen Smith, who added 15 points (6 of 8) and 9 rebounds, said after the game. “I mean for him to be a rookie and in a big-time spot like that to control the offense like that and control the team, it showed a lot. We are just grateful to have him, you know obviously we had T.J. out sick and Ty hurt … for him to step up like that is big time.”

He did all of that while also playing fantastic defense and drew a pair of charges in the fourth quarter and was part of a team effort that held Curry to a 3-of-17 shooting night with just 12 points. Nembhard was a game-high +16 while going 5 for 7 from deep in his career-best performance that surpasses anything he ever did on a college court over his four years as well.

Carlisle has praised the front office multiple times now for nailing the first pick of the second round in Nembhard and said the rookie guard may go in the top 10 of his draft class in a potential redraft in a few years.

“They just hit it out of the park with him,” Carlisle said of Kevin Pritchard and the front office’s selection of Nembhard, who now leads the team in scoring on the road trip with 15.5 points per game. “This guy has got amazing poise, he’s strong, he’s old school but new school, he’s special.”

Every other game during this neverending trip has seen the Pacers lose by double digits and with multiple starters and rotation players out, it felt like that was the likely scenario against the Warriors as the Pacers were playing on the second night of a back to back with three rookies during most of the first quarter in Nembhard, Bennedict Mathurin, and Kendall Brown. Instead the Pacers, who are the worst first quarter team in the league, led the Warriors 34-21 at the end of the first quarter.

Nembhard followed up his career high of 16 points in his first game replacing Tyrese Haliburton at the lead guard by nearly doubling it with 31. For the season, Nembhard has shooting splits of 48.5/42.9/90.9 while averaging 9.1 points and 4.2 assists in 23.8 minutes per game.

Stray Observations:

  • Bennedict Mathurin hits a rookie wall? The Pacers more celebrated rookie to this point of the season has struggled throughout the road trip. He’s now gone four straight games without a made 3-pointer after only having one such game in the first 19 games of the season. On the road trip, Mathurin is shooting 35.2% from the floor overall and just 16.7% from deep. He seems to bounce back and forth between being treated like a rookie and like an All Star by the referees at the rim, a very odd feast or famine where he gets to the line for at least 8 attempts, which has happened in 3 games on this trip, or 0 attempts, which has happened on the team’s other 3 games on this trip to this point. He went 4 for 16 in his first career start against the Warriors including 0 for 6 from deep but did still score 14 points with the help of 8 free throw attempts.
  • This team is now 5-0 on the second night of a back to back. Huh? I don’t have anything to add to this other than confusion.
  • Concerning statistics from the road trip: Pacers have a -10 net rating, the 29th-best rebound percentage in the league at 46.3% and the 29th-best true-shooting percentage at 52.5% in the league during the timeframe of this trip. It has been a struggle. The team had made rebounding a surprise strength early in the season but it has fallen off a cliff and the team has gone through a cold shooting spell during this trip as teams have made adjustments for how they want to defend the Pacers fast-paced offense by putting long wing defenders on Tyrese Haliburton and cross-matching centers onto Jalen Smith and forwards onto Myles Turner.
  • The Pacers played two bigger wings at once! They only really have two on the roster in Oshae Brissett and Kendall Brown but they both saw a lot of playing time together against the Warriors. Brissett played fantastic with 14 points and 8 rebounds including a perfect first half at 4 for 4. It continues to baffle me how far he was buried in the depth chart to start this season. Brown in his first rotation minutes of the season was the first player off the Pacers bench and added 3 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. 
  • Tyrese Haliburton’s road struggles: Haliburton has had a rough road trip as well, dealing with the emotion of playing in Sacramento for the first time as a member of the road team and then probably playing a game that he should have sat out with the sore groin injury that kept him out of both sides of the back to back. Haliburton shot just 37.3% from the floor overall and 33.3% from deep during the trip’s first four games and only 40% from the free throw line on limited attempts. That being said, he still started this road trip with 35 assists in the first three games with only two turnovers even while struggling with his own shot. In the Jazz game, he had just 4 assists.
  • I haven’t written anything about that Jazz game really but that was a rough watch. The Jazz won 139-119 outside of Nembhard’s 13 points and 10 assists. They just couldn’t stop anyone. Walker Kessler walked all over them with 20 and 11 on 7 of 7 shooting. As a team they made 55.4% of their shots against the Pacers defense and 44.1% of their threes. 
  • The Blazers game may have been even worse. It’s hard to pick the worst of the games from the road trip between the Clippers, Jazz, and Blazers games. The minutes were the Pacers attempted to play James Johnson at the point guard gave me painful flashbacks to Brad Wanamaker trying to run the offense at times to start last season. Trevelin Queen thankfully was adequate as an emergency point guard for the most part and quietly did some good things despite his box score not showing much in terms of counting stats. I’m still intrigued by last season’s G-League MVP.

PacersrecaP #21: Kings crush Pacers in Haliburton’s first return to Sacramento

The Pacers played a game last night. It did not go well. The Sacramento Kings played with desperation after losing three straight and the Indiana Pacers did not match that level of effort as they were dominated throughout the game and lost by a final score of 137-114.

Tyrese Haliburton made his first return to Sacramento since the trade and received a standing ovation and loud cheers during his introduction and then Buddy Hield immediately received boos as the next player introduced and continued to be booed whenever he touched the ball in the first quarter.

Hield had a great reaction post-game to the boos, “I don’t give a [expletive]. I go to sleep happy and make a lot of money.”

Rick Carlisle said that the blame for the embarrassing loss is on him for this one as he didn’t get the team prepared and ready for what they were going to face with the Kings team looking to end a 3-game losing streak.

React to this Kings destruction of the Pacers as much as you want. It’s silly to put too much stock into it as far as the trade goes. The Pacers (12-9) aren’t supposed to have a better record than the Kings (11-9) this year and it was always a long term move for Indiana. For the Kings, this is the first time they’ve been over .500 this far into the season in a long time as they look to end the longest playoff drought in league history. Right now, both teams are way more fun than they were before the trade and you can’t say either team regrets the deal. It’s certainly hard to see the Pacers ever regretting it.

It has not been a good start to the long road trip for the Pacers who without an impressive comeback in the fourth quarter against the Lakers would be staring at three straight blowout losses with each one worse than the last. The Pacers play the surprising Utah Jazz next so the schedule doesn’t get any easier any time soon.

1. Jalen Smith was having the game of his life before getting elbowed in the face.

Stix was about the only thing going right for the Pacers in the third quarter as the Kings put up 44 points. Smith scored 18 of his 22 points in the third quarter and did a ton of damage as the lone big on the floor with four guards. He went 8 for 10 from the field and 4 for 5 from deep on the night. Continue reading PacersrecaP #21: Kings crush Pacers in Haliburton’s first return to Sacramento

PacersrecaP #20: Andrew Nembhard hits buzzer beater to give Pacers win over Lakers

The Indiana Pacers were down by 17 with 9:59 remaining in the fourth quarter. Many people likely decided it was no longer worth staying up late to watch and went to bed. Those weary faithful few, however, were rewarded with the best Pacers comeback victory yet that culminated with an Andrew Nembhard buzzer beating 3-pointer over LeBron James to give the Pacers a 116-115 win on the second night of their LA back-to-back.

It felt like the Pacers would keep climbing up to the peak but come up just short when a previous possession the Pacers had missed 3 straight chances at the rim with Nembhard missing a nifty reverse layup, Buddy Hield missing a tip in chance, and then Bennedict Mathurin also missing one. Each teetering on the rim more the last but each one falling off. To add insult to injury, the Pacers were called for a foul after the final miss and sent Anthony Davis to the free-throw line where he made just one of two and left the door open for the Pacers game winner.

With those 10 minutes left, the Pacers played hard until the buzzer sounded and the clock matched their young backcourt duo’s jersey numbers at 0:00 as Nembhard’s triple splashed through the net with the red lights on and the entire team plus Kevin Pritchard came rushing onto the court to celebrate. 8 of the Pacers 12 wins have been games that they have come back from double-digit deficits.

It was the Pacers first buzzer beater game winner since Solomon Hill had a tip in winner in Lance Stephenson’s first game in Indiana as a member of the Charlotte Hornets in 2014.

1. Welcome back, Andrew Nembhard. May you never leave us again.

What a way to return from a 5-game absence. The game winning triple will be one of the top highlights of his rookie season and perhaps his likely to be long career but he was making plays throughout the game on both ends. His quirky, yet ultra fast release to even allow him to get the shot off was a feat in itself but to splash it in, nothing but net, on the road was a thing of beauty. The most impressive aspect of his game was his defense. He spent a lot of time guarding LeBron James and even while giving up size to the all-time great, Nembhard made things tough for James, who started off with a quick 10 points but finished with just 21 points on 22 shots after he seemed less mobile once he hurt his ankle in the first quarter. Caitlin Cooper did a fantastic job as always of covering the nuances of what makes Nembhard special on the defensive end.

Continue reading PacersrecaP #20: Andrew Nembhard hits buzzer beater to give Pacers win over Lakers

PacersrecaP #19: Ivica Zubac dominates the Indiana Pacers who start their long road trip with a loss

The Indiana Pacers did not get off to a good start to their long Western adventure with their worst offensive game of the season against the Los Angeles Clippers who dominated behind a 30 point, 29 rebound game from center Ivica Zubac.

This isn’t a game that any Pacers fan is going to want to spend too much time thinking about. Just one of those nights in a long NBA season where the team is unable to make anything. The Pacers made just 38% of their shots overall and just 21% from deep. It was a sad, painful watch. A rare sight for a team that has been able to at least make games interesting when they fall behind early even when they weren’t winning many games at the start of the year.

This game was as frustrating as a Pokémon trainer’s trek through Mt. Moon and hitting Zubat encounters every three steps.

Ivica Zubat hit every member of the Pacers with supersonic and they were unable to shake off the confusion of his crossmatches and bruising play inside. They kept hurting themselves with missed open jump shots. Whenever the Pacers forced a miss of their own, Ivica Zubat used Leech Life on each of his offensive boards and putbacks as he sucked the life out of any sorry attempt that the Pacers could muster at momentum yesterday afternoon.

Usually it’s the Pacers lack of wings that doom their defense but in this one they could have used an electric type. No encounters with the rarely sighted Clefairwhi Leonard or Paul Geo(rge)dude as the pair of stars were at their usual spots in street clothes. It didn’t matter Zubat took care of the whole roster. Somehow TJ McConnell managed a few quick attacks that led to fouls on Zubat who finally fainted onto the bench with six fouls.

1) Jalen Smith has a career high and gets out of his slump a bit

The Clippers crossmatched Myles Turner and Jalen Smith because of both Smith’s struggles and Turner’s hot shooting. While they dared Smith to shoot and left him wide open, he was able to break out of his cold spell a bit. But it did the intended effect of keeping Turner out of the play far more often and Turner didn’t do himself any favors by getting into foul trouble in the first half. Smith meanwhile scored 19 of his 23 in the first half and kept the Pacers close.

Credit to Jalen Smith for being a highlight to this one as he scored a career high 23 points (previously he had scored 19 points on five separate occasions) and added 9 rebounds. He made more 3-pointers in this game (3 for 7) than he had in his previous six games combined (2 for 23). He also played very aggressively, didn’t shy away from taking those open looks, and tried to posterize Zubac when he had the opportunity and drew a foul.

We’ll probably see more and more crossmatches as team’s adjust to Turner’s great play and try to take advantage of Smith’s streaky outside shot. It will be fascinating to see how the team continues to adjust from here.

2) Tyrese Haliburton continues to rack up assists

Even in a game where the Pacers couldn’t make anything, Haliburton still managed to find 11 assists in this one. It was his second straight game with zero turnovers and he’s at 26:0 ATO in those pair of games. He, like the rest of the team, missed a ton of shots that he normally hits in this one. Floaters inside, his patient layups that he earns with nice footwork, a beautifully played 3-pointer off of him throwing an inbounds pass and then racing to the corner. So many great looks and so few results. His 15 points took 16 shots to get there and he was unable to get to the free throw line.

3) There’s just nothing else I really want to talk about with this game.

It was bad. Let’s move on. Here’s a list of guys with bad shooting nights: Buddy Hield (3 for 14), Myles Turner (3 for 9), Aaron Nesmith (1 for 7), Isaiah Jackson (1 for 5), Oshae Brissett (0 for 3). Oddly, without Zubac, the Clippers and Pacers game might have been the equivalent of that Colts and Broncos Thursday Night game a few weeks ago. Both teams were completely inept outside of the Croatian big man. Without Zubac’s 14 of 17, the rest of the Clippers roster was 28 for 77 which is good for a whopping 36.3%. They made less 3-pointers than the Pacers managed in this one at 18.8% (6 for 32). Let’s hope this game with the Lakers tonight is more entertaining. We know Bennedict Mathurin is going to be ready for his first matchup with LeBron James and we have the neverending chatter about every good and bad Myles Turner and Buddy Hield game in Lakerland finally reaching its zenith or nadir tonight with the teams facing each other.

PacersrecaP #16-18: Report Cards for Pacers games against the Magic, Wolves, and Nets

Another week of highly entertaining Pacers basketball descended upon us over this past week with a blowout win against the Orlando Magic on Monday, a loss against the already wondering if they made a huge mistake Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, and yet another comeback victory this time against the conspiracy theorist Brooklyn Nets. 2-1 for the week and 11-7 for the year. The Pacers are fourth in the Eastern Conference standings with the sixth-best record in the entire league.

In the palindrome spirit of PacersrecaP, it doesn’t matter whether I start with the first or last game (it’s W L W either way) so we’ll start with the fresh comeback against the Nets. After being down by 12 after the first quarter, the Pacers did what they do: stick together, play with more force, and end up winning the game with relative ease. This time it was the fourth quarter where the Pacers outscored the Nets 40-23 that clinched it all behind an energetic crowd that fed off the passion of their rookie star Bennedict Mathurin. If I told you the Pacers would play a game against two well-known superstars like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and end up winning the free-throw battle 38-10 over an entire game, you’d have to think that was a typo. It’s not. The Pacers kept earning their way to the foul line by driving to the basket and the Nets kept hacking away. While the Pacers are typically a team that struggles with fouling on the other end, they only committed 11 total over the whole game. The Nets committed 28. The Nets had 19 turnovers. The Pacers had just 10. It was a dominate effort after that first quarter from Indiana who are now 2-0 when the Nets choose not to play Edmond Sumner and 0-1 when he does play. Just saying I miss Hype Train.

Wednesday’s game against the Wolves was the dud of the week. They started slow as they are prone to do and kept it interesting enough to even get the lead at one point in the second half but just couldn’t sustain anything as they couldn’t get enough stops against the long Timberwolves who shot 61.5% for the game compared to the Pacers shooting just 38.5%. It’s surprising considering the statistics that the Pacers didn’t lose this one by a greater margin than 115-101. Myles Turner did all he could to keep the team within respectable distance though with a career-best-tying seven 3-pointers and 31 points and the Wolves committed 23 turnovers. 

Monday’s Magic game felt like a rough one to watch that lacked rhythm and flow for much of the game but when I looked up at the scoreboard the Pacers were up by 19 at the end of the third. That general malaise may have been influenced by me starting to feel the effects of the flu. I was at Gainbridge Fieldhouse for this one thanks to free club level tickets from NBA Top Shot’s Team Captain Program and my personal collection of Pacers Top Shot moments (get $15 site credit after buying your starter pack by signing up with this link, I’ve already won tickets to three separate games this season from the program) when I started to get the chills and generally feel gross. Turns out it wasn’t the Pacers penchant for turning the ball over (21 turnovers) and starters inability to make threes (4 for 28) that were making me feel ill. I came home and found I had a 101.5 fever and tested positive for Influenza A the next day, basically didn’t leave my bed for the 2+ days, and still feel like I just watched Tyreke Evans airball a layup approaching a week later. Fortunately, my wife and small children had their flu shots and have not gotten sick. Get those flu shots, Pacers fans, they seem be doing very, very well this year.

So that’s why this PacersrecaP will cover three games besides just one—if you were curious where I’ve been—and I’ve decided to make this a little different and go with a report card vibe but where the letters are like the points in Whose Line Is It Anyway? for the past week for each player that played in any of these games:

Tyrese Haliburton Grade: A for All of the Accolades, All-Star, All-NBA, Assist Artist

Fresh off of his first career player of the week honor, Tyrese Haliburton had games with 18 points and 14 assists, 10 points and 14 assists, 21 points and 15 assists. Continue reading PacersrecaP #16-18: Report Cards for Pacers games against the Magic, Wolves, and Nets

PacersrecaP #15: Indiana Pacers win fourth straight behind career night from Aaron Nesmith

The Indiana Pacers cannot stop winning games after being down by double digits. After tonight’s 114-113 win against the Orlando Magic after being down by as many as 10 in the first half, the Pacers completed their fourth straight comeback win and five of their nine wins have been from games in which they trailed by at least 10.

At 9-6, the Pacers now are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for 4th in the Eastern Conference and so continues the continuously surprising, exciting start to the Pacers rebuild. They’ve now won eight of their last 10 games after their 1-4 start. Their chemistry continues to be discussed as the reason they’ve been so successful in this stretch.

“We’re growing together as a group, getting better every day,” said Tyrese Haliburton after the game, “becoming closer on and off the floor. That’s allowed us to have trust in each other to play these games.”

1. The Aaron Nesmith Game

Aaron Nesmith was scoreless in three of his last four games. Tonight, he made his first four 3-pointers and scored the last 5 points for the Pacers with a clutch 3-pointer with 1:37 left that immediately matched a stepback triple from Franz Wagner that gave the Magic a brief 4-point lead and a huge contested offensive rebound with less than 10 seconds left that ended up with Nesmith earning a trip to the foul line where he buried both free throws to give the Pacers the lead for good. To cap it all off, it was Nesmith on the final play of the game who earned the stop on Wagner and clinched the game once and for all.

Before last night, Nesmith had only made 9 of 32 from deep (28%). He boosted his season average to a number closer to league average at 35% after going 5 of 8.

He finished with a career-high 19 points (previously 18 with the Celtics) and his 5 3-pointers were also a personal best. His active defense and hot shooting were the difference in this game as the Pacers outscored the Magic by 17 in his 25 minutes. The Pacers celebrated by nearly taking out his ACL as he slipped from the surprise water bottle pouring during the post-game interview. Fortunately, he was fine and laughing about it.

2. Tyrese Haliburton’s ankle is just fine

Haliburton avoided missing any time at all after the injury scare the previous night. The team repeatedly asked him over and over to make sure he was comfortable with playing tonight after they found no red flags to be concerned about with the ankle. Haliburton didn’t want to take the night off.

“In an NBA world where it’s pretty cool these days to sit out games, he did not want to hear about sitting out tonight,” Carlisle said after the game. “… He insisted on playing … All of his testing stuff was that both legs and ankles were identical. There were no red flags about him playing, but on the second night of a back-to-back, a lot of players in this league would have readily taken it off. He did not. It’s another indicator of the culture we’re building. It’s not just the staff that’s preaching it. It’s the best players. It’s a very positive thing for us.”

Based on his play, you’d never guess that he was down the previous night in clear pain, yelling expletives, and then limping to the locker room. Haliburton scored 22 points, dished out 14 assists, and had numerous big plays on defense with 3 blocks and 2 steals. There was no doubt that he was feeling just fine from the start of the game where he scored or assisted on 11 straight points for the team to get the Pacers going after starting down 10-1. By the time Haliburton hit a half-court buzzer beater at the end of the first half, he had already erased any concerns anyone may have had.

He had 10 of his 14 assists in the second half including 7 during the key run of the game where the Pacers went from down 63-70 to up 87-77 in the third quarter. Haliburton just dominated during this stretch by consistently finding holes in the defense inside or moving it to open shooters at the right time to transition trailers like when he found Nesmith for his 4th triple, a classic drive and kick like the plays he found Myles Turner and Jalen Smith, or just simply trusting his teammates like when he passed up a pull-up 2 for a Buddy Hield 3. He scored or assisted on all but 3 points in this Pacers run. The highlight of them all probably his perfectly placed alley oop to Bennedict Mathurin.

Haliburton walked into the building in this one like his detective character was going undercover with the mafia. No short film script this time but maybe Detective Tyrese II comes out soon. In the meantime, enjoy this bad photoshop.

3. Terry Taylor, small-ball 5, returns in all its glory

Also happening amidst the Pacers big 3rd quarter run was this situation. Bol Bol was making play after play and giving the Pacers defense problems, the Magic have height and length all over the floor even without Paolo Banchero, and the Pacers down three with 5:22 left in the third quarter had consistently been battling back to being within one possession but never quite getting over that hump like they were Shadow trying to climb out of that mud pit at the end of Homeward Bound just without the tears pouring out of my eyes.

Don’t give up, Shadow! Peter needs you. 😭

The solution to the Magic’s gargantuan length? Terry Taylor, 6’5” center. After Taylor entered the game, the Pacers went on a 16-3 run to get their first lead of the game and push it all the way to 10 points before the Magic started a comeback of their own. The only points not assisted by Haliburton in that stretch mentioned in the previous section? A classic Taylor offensive rebound and putback and-1. In his 5 minutes, the Pacers were +8 and went from down 3 to up 5 at the end of the third quarter. It came at the expense of Isaiah Jackson minutes but with Oshae Brissett as the tallest player on the floor for the Pacers, but Carlisle’s move to go super small worked. It was good to see him and Brissett contribute to a positive stretch when Taylor–and Brissett until recently–have struggled to find consistent playing time.

4. 20 and 10 starting to feel like a normal game for Myles Turner

Myles Turner continued his hot play with 20 points (8 of 13), 11 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block. It was Turner’s fifth double double in the last six games and the first game of the year where he didn’t have more than one block. The Pacers are now 7-0 when Myles Turner plays at least 26 minutes and 7-3 overall in his 10 games. 6-0 in he makes a 3-pointer. The games that the Pacers have lost since Turner returned his ankle sprain: his first game of the season where he played 24 minutes against the Bulls and struggled to find his rhythm, the post Woj Pod game against the Nets that may have been the worst game in his career, and the loss against the Nuggets were Turner sat out almost all of the third quarter with foul trouble.

In November over seven games, he’s averaged 20.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocks with shooting splits of 62.3/47.4/82.6. This is the Myles Turner that fans have been hoping to see since those bright flashes in his rookie season. Caitlin Cooper with some key statistics in his improvement to begin the year:

The Pacers two-most used lineups this season are now the starting lineups of Haliburton, Turner, Hield, Smith, and one of Nembhard or Nesmith. It’s still a very small sample size but the net ratings of those groups are +15 over 80 minutes with Nembhard and +25.9 over 37 minutes with Nesmith. No one has benefited from playing with Haliburton more than Turner and that’ll likely be especially true once he gets paid this summer. He’s getting passes inside that he could only dream about over his first seven seasons with the team. It’s one thing to finally have consistent trust from his teammates and them having the ability to get him the ball in the right spots but he’s also taking major advantage of those opportunities he’s getting by finishing over mismatches, drawing fouls inside, and going up with force and dunking it when he can.

This November has been Turner’s version of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy where you see all the lessons he’s learned over the years and putting it all together to masterful effect. His driving against closeouts and spacing the floor appropriately when needed that became a skill while playing on the perimeter the past two seasons like West’s use of autotune in Runaway and Lost in the World that never happens without 808s and Heartbreak. His quick, no-time wasted, catch and put it up over the mismatch that was reminiscent of his rookie quick turnaround days in the post like Devil in a New Dress emitting that classic soul sample vibes of the early Kanye days. His blocks at the rim that lead to transition opportunities the Kanye at his best with Power and All of the Lights. 89.7% of Turner’s buckets have been assisted this year like the producers and featured artist that helped elevate West to new heights in this album.

There’s a lot of games left in this season for Turner to prove he can both stay healthy and be this good consistently. There’s still the cloud of Turner’s free agency this summer hanging over this fantastic stretch that make it unclear how long he will remain in Indiana, but it has been very satisfying to see Turner do all the things that many have been waiting, hoping, craving to see from him for a long time.

Stray Observations:

  • The Magic’s Bol Bol and Franz Wagner were super impressive. Wagner, who finished with 29 points, hit a couple of step-back threes late that as ridiculous as it sounds reminded me of LeBron’s overtime performance in the Fieldhouse last season where he just hit three after three to finish the Pacers off. Wagner hit one over Turner that had him shaking his head in disbelief. Magic already got their thinner version of Wemby with Bol, no need for them to win the lottery yet again.
  • Jalen Smith struggled with his 3-point shot (1 for 6) but he made some really nice cuts to the basket in this one and finished a couple post-ups inside to get to 14 points.
  • If you look at the team stats for this one they are nearly identical in many categories (all shooting percentages, field goal attempts, blocks, fouls, largest lead), but the one that decided it all: rebounding. The Pacers won the battle of the boards 42-41, the difference maker that Nesmith game-winning offensive rebound.

PacersrecaP #14: Pacers make yet another double-digit comeback, Haliburton will “be fine”

The Indiana Pacers moved to 8-6 after their third straight double-digit comeback victory. This time it came against the Houston Rockets who led 30-10 near the beginning of the second quarter.

Yes, the Pacers scored only 10 points in the first quarter, the lowest amount that any team has scored in the opening quarter this season so far. I don’t know if it was just a matter of underestimating the youthful, tanktastic Rockets or if they were having flashbacks to the pandemic arenas with how empty the place looked at the start of the game, but the Pacers couldn’t do anything right during the first 12 minutes of the game. Eric Gordon was just driving through the lane and getting anything he wanted on offense. 

Rick Carlisle was so fed up with the effort that he took advantage of a no call in the second quarter as an opportunity to get a couple technicals and get ejected from the game. Either he would fire up his team or he wouldn’t have to watch this ugly one any longer. Seems like a win-win to me outside of the fines.

Rick Carlisle if he had hair to pull out before he got ejected.

Carlisle was ejected with 3:49 remaining in the second quarter and the Pacers down 46-33 after Jalen Green hit one of two technical free throws. The Pacers outscored the Rockets 66-45 for the remainder of the game. 

None of this looked to have mattered for a moment with Tyrese Haliburton went down in pain after making his running layup, hook shot to ice the game with 37 seconds left as Usman Garuba landed on his ankle. But after being helped to the locker room by the training staff, Tyrese Haliburton, who finished with 19 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds, told Lloyd Pierce that he was “okay” though Pierce noted that they all say that and that he is icing his ankle. Fingers crossed it’s just a short-term ankle sprain. Haliburton went straight to Twitter to ease any fears of a long term injury.

1. The Comeback Kids

This was the third straight comeback from a big first half deficit for the Pacers. They trailed by 15 against the Raptors, 13 against the Hornets, and 20 tonight against the Rockets. They also had a fourth comeback earlier in the season when they came back from being down 14 against the Pistons. Lloyd Pierce credited the team’s chemistry with each other for why they’ve been so good at fighting back this season. Continue reading PacersrecaP #14: Pacers make yet another double-digit comeback, Haliburton will “be fine”

PacersrecaP #13: Pacers dismantle the Hornets drop coverage, Bennedict Buckets, and more

The Indiana Pacers are over .500. The Indiana Pacers have a winning record. The Indiana Pacers have won six of their last eight games and sit at 6th in the Eastern Conference standings. These are not things that I expected to write this season.

The Pacers (7-6) ended a 6-game losing streak in Charlotte in the regular season and made their second straight double-digit comeback to win by a final score of 125-113. The Pacers are set up to have every opportunity to continue their hot start as they have the Rockets on Friday and the Magic for two straight games after that.

1. The Pacers sliced up the Hornets’ drop coverage

After facing many teams that cover pick and rolls either by switching or playing at the level of the screen, Tyrese Haliburton’s eyes probably lit up with the Hornets and their drop coverage on the schedule for tonight.  Continue reading PacersrecaP #13: Pacers dismantle the Hornets drop coverage, Bennedict Buckets, and more

PacersrecaP #12: The Inconsistencies of Jalen Smith and Comparing Myles Turner’s Impressive Numbers

The Indiana Pacers are .500 once again after defeating the Toronto Raptors by a final score of 118-104 after out-scoring them by 29 points after trailing by 15 points in opening minute of the third quarter through the end of the game.

If you missed part 1 of this palindrome-inspired column, you can find it here.

#3 Jalen Smith’s Roller Coaster start to the season

Jalen Smith’s season averages look decent for a guy playing about 24 minutes per game: 11 points and 7.6 rebounds.

But in his 12 games so far, Stix hasn’t scored 11 points in any individual game. He really hasn’t even been all that close to 11 in any single game. He’s scored 15 or more points seven times and 8 points or below five times. Just once this season has Smith scored closer than 4 points above or below his season average when he scored 8 points in the win against the Nets. It’s been quite the roller coaster of an early season for Smith.

Inconsistency can make for a fun theme park ride. Red line marks his season average.

Continue reading PacersrecaP #12: The Inconsistencies of Jalen Smith and Comparing Myles Turner’s Impressive Numbers

PacersrecaP #11.1: Detective Tyrese Haliburton and the case of the many wing Raptors

The Indiana Pacers are back to .500 after a dominate fourth quarter to beat the Toronto Raptors by a final score of 118-104.

It was a tale of two halves for the Pacers who found themselves down by 13 at halftime but in the final frame they outscored the Raptors 36-14 and cruised to a victory.

The Pacers continue to have good scheduling luck as they finished up a 4-game home stand and on two days rest while the Raptors were playing their 5th game in 7 nights and without Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. It didn’t matter much in the first half though as the Raptors collection of large wings destroyed the Pacers on both ends in the second quarter to push to their 13-point halftime lead.

Don’t look now but the Pacers remain tied for 6th in the Eastern conference and their next four games are against the Hornets, Rockets, and Magic twice. Winning streak on the way?

Woah, the Pacers know how to win games?

1. Detective Tyrese Haliburton and the case of the many wing Raptors

Haliburton arrived at the scene prepared to investigate Toronto’s rare collection of these players called wings that have been so rare in Indiana these last few seasons. But in the first half, the detective’s probing resulted in little offense for himself as the Raptors length bothered into a 1 for 8 start with just two points Continue reading PacersrecaP #11.1: Detective Tyrese Haliburton and the case of the many wing Raptors

PacersrecaP #10.2: Tyrese Haliburton talks trash, Myles Turner defends the MVP, and more

PACERSRECAP #10.2: The Denver Nuggets brought the Indiana Pacers back down to Earth and came back from an 18-point deficit to win 122-119. 

If you missed part 1 on the Bennedict Mathurin experience and Isaiah Jackson’s ultra-efficient, prophecy-fulfilling 18 minutes, read that here.

3. Myles Turner vs. Nikola Jokic

If you look at Jokic’s overall numbers for the game, you might not think Myles Turner had the best defensive night against the 2-time MVP. 24 points (10 of 20) in 21 minutes with 6 rebounds and 4 assists, but Turner played fantastic defense down the stretch to give the Pacers a chance to salvage a win after blowing their big lead.

In the final six minutes of the fourth quarter, Jokic went 1 for 7 from the floor with just four points. Continue reading PacersrecaP #10.2: Tyrese Haliburton talks trash, Myles Turner defends the MVP, and more

PacersrecaP #10.1: Mathurin madness and a prophecy is fulfilled in Pacers loss

For the entire second quarter, it felt as if the Indiana Pacers may never lose a game again as they dominated the Denver Nuggets 43-21 to take a 14-point lead into halftime. But alas, the wheels fell off for reasons to be discussed and the Nuggets came back from an 18-point lead to win by a final score of 122-119.

Despite the loss, this team continues to just bring a real joyous energy to the table. The ball moves around; they fly around the court. It’s going to take some time for these young guys to learn how to win with consistency but it’s a blast watching them learn these lessons. Let’s dive into the specifics for this one:

1. Benne. Dict. Energy.

This man is a rookie? Bennedict Mathurin has only played in 11 games?

This is the second time in his short career that his pull-up 3-pointing has made me audibly gasp and then he’ll do it another two times and my wife will have to rush into the room to make sure everything’s alright.

“Yes, sorry, it’s just Bennedict Mathurin.”

“…again?”

As she rolls her eyes at my ridiculousness and walks away

The Pacers entered the second quarter down by 8. In less than four minutes the Pacers were ahead by 8. In that stretch, the Pacers scored on all six of their possessions with Mathurin having 14 of the 18 points for the team in that stretch. Continue reading PacersrecaP #10.1: Mathurin madness and a prophecy is fulfilled in Pacers loss

PacersrecaP #9.2: A glimpse into the Pacers future and eye-popping stats through 10 games

The Indiana Pacers beat the New Orleans Pelicans and I decided to break it all down in two parts. If you missed part one on the excellent vibes of this group and a dive into the rollercoaster of Myles Turner’s first five games, check that out right here.

Let’s jump right into things.

Bet you weren’t expecting a jumping TJ Leaf to show up in this one. Me either; I don’t know what to tell you. This caption is too long, my gif choice is bad, let’s just move on.

#2 Tyrese Haliburton is too fun, man.

In what has become a classic Tyrese formula in the team’s first 10 games, Haliburton started off this one slowly offensively, taking only four shots in the first half, focusing on getting his teammates going, and then he just took over in the second half. In this one, the slow start for his own point total came at least partially due to the coverages he was seeing from the Pelicans defense, but he came out in the third quarter and just drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer with the briefest windows as the Pelicans switched on Hield’s ghosted screens or pulling up on a big in drop coverage. Continue reading PacersrecaP #9.2: A glimpse into the Pacers future and eye-popping stats through 10 games

PacersrecaP #9.1: Wait, are the Pacers good?

The Indiana Pacers (5-5) have won four of their last five games and are tied for 6th in the Eastern Conference after beating the New Orleans Pelicans by a final score of 129-122. 

So are the Pacers actually … good?

“We’re not going to get carried away,” Rick Carlisle said after the game in an attempt to temper any expectations from this nice stretch. 

Speak for yourself, Rick! All aboard the playoffs hype train!

“We’re going to keep working every day,” Carlisle continued in his wise, non-reactionary way.  “We’ll come back and get ready for Denver. But tonight was a great night. I was impressed with every player that stepped on the court, and every player that did not step on the court. We had a real spirited effort.”

The wild thing about the start to this season is when you compare it to last year’s start with a team full of veterans that were supposed to be pushing for the postseason. The Pacers never reached .500 over the course of last season, nor did they ever win 4 of 5 games. The closest they ever came to doing so was when they were 6-8 and had won 5 of 7. 

The difference in the vibes of these two teams is immense. Some of that is the no expectations and the still fresh newness of the roster but it’s much easier to buy into the hope of this group than the staleness of praying for the health of the last iteration.

This hot stretch may not last forever, veterans like Hield and Turner may eventually be traded as the team shifts it’s focus to the future (you do have to wonder if the Pacers are hovering around .500 how into trading these guys Pacers owner Herb Simon will be), but if they continue to be this fun, it’s going to be a great ride no matter what happens.

1. Speaking of rides, the Myles Turner roller coaster reaches a new peak in a dominate performance

37 points (11 of 18), 12 rebounds, 3 blocks. In arguably the best game of his career, Myles Turner was a force throughout the game. Continue reading PacersrecaP #9.1: Wait, are the Pacers good?

PacersrecaP #8: Bennedict’s Simple Math, Pacers balanced attack beats Heat

The Indiana Pacers (4-5) returned home to the fieldhouse after three days off with a win over the Miami Heat (4-6) by a final score of 101-99.

The Pacers defense played well as they held the Heat to shooting just 38.3% overall and 28.2% from deep. It was a schedule win if there ever was one with the Pacers well-rested and the Heat coming off of a tight win the previous night against the Sacramento Kings and sitting Jimmy Butler out. As was said in ages past: Beat the Heat.

The offensive attack was well spread out: Buddy Hield with 25, Bennedict Mathurin with 23, Tyrese Haliburton with 22, and Myles Turner with 16 led the way. A balance even Thanos would be proud of.

1. Bennedict Mathurin lives at the free-throw line

As a rookie, Mathurin is shooting 6.2 free throws per game and looks like he may end up as the best foul drawer / free-throw earner that the Pacers have ever had. His 8 free throws per 36 minutes and his free throw rate of .448 rank highly among the Pacers best players’ best free throw seasons over the last 30+ years: Continue reading PacersrecaP #8: Bennedict’s Simple Math, Pacers balanced attack beats Heat