The Indiana Pacers lost the season opener to the Washington Wizards by a final score of 114-107 but the loss doesn’t mean there were no positives to takeaway from the start of the 2022-23 season.
In fact, in the same spirit of the latest Locked On Pacers episode, it’s a great time for overreacting. And in this season of no expectations, there’s no reason to not think brightly about at least few pieces of the Pacers future.
#1 Bennedict Mathurin will be the greatest shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers since Reggie Miller.
Forget all of the potential rookie-related overreactions: Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie First Team, MVP of the Rookies / Sophomores game, etc. I’m diving straight into predicting Mathurin’s whole career based on his first very game and really just the final sixty seconds.
Anyone watching this sequence through the lens of a Pacers fan had to have one thought swim through their head when Mathurin hit the three, then quickly got a steal, and pulled up for another three.
While he didn’t complete the initial 6-point play that Miller made in his 8 points, 9 seconds iconic moment, he didn’t give up on the play either tipping an offensive rebound on his missed attempt and then scoring an and-1 basket on the ensuing inbounds pass with impressive body control. While he missed the free throw, the Pacers secured another offensive rebound and had Tyrese Haliburton open for the tie. But alas, the Pacers bid to score 8 points in 18 seconds fell short as the shot bounced off the rim and they lost their opener.
Mathurin, however, shined throughout on the offensive end. It took him all of 10 seconds of playing time to score his first NBA basket on a driving floater over Kristaps Porzingis and the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft and finished the first quarter with 10 points after hitting two 3-pointers in the final minute foreshadowing what was to come at the conclusion of the game.
I for one look forward to the multiple All-Star appearances, game winners, and a number retirement ceremony in Mathurin’s future. He scored 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting while adding 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals in his debut while having the highest plus/minus on the team at +9 in his 28 minutes.
#2 Tyrese Haliburton can be the team’s leading scorer and its best playmaker for others.
Tyrese Haliburton looked every bit the part of a dynamic number-one option on offense for the Pacers with a game-high 26 points and 7 assists. He led the team in shot attempts with 18, making 10 and (hat-tip to Tony East) nine of those buckets were unassisted. Haliburton created those for himself. He hit step-back jumpers, he hit pull-up 3s, he drove to the basket, initiated contact and finished, and just generally looked like the exactly the guy you hoped he’d be on that end.
The Wizards took away any lob chances that were potentially there and stayed tight to the roll man most of the night, almost daring Haliburton to look for his shot first. For the Pacers, it couldn’t have been a better opening defensive strategy to force Haliburton to use the things that he’s been working on all summer and he came out aggressive. His usage rate of 24.5% would be a career high by 5.5%. It’s just one game but that’s what this article is all about.
No play was better than his transition slam where he completely faked out Monte Morris and dunked on top of a defender.
He had another dunk in that same quarter on the baseline which put him up 2-0 in he and Buddy Hield’s “who has the most hops?” contest for the season.
There will be nights where Haliburton racks up a lot more assists than he did tonight and he doesn’t score as much but this was a fantastic first step to him becoming the star you can really build an offense around and once Mathurin makes his eventual way into the starting lineup, it will be fascinating to see how those two players develop chemistry, build off each other, and divy up the usage.
#3 Myles Turner will never play a game for the Indiana Pacers again.
I think Myles built a large lego set on an ancient Indian burial ground or ticked off a witch doctor in traffic. His latest injury has to be simply some of the worst luck you can have. Anxious to play for months, finally gets a chance to play with Haliburton, and he steps on a ball boy less than two hours before the tip of the season opener and sprains his ankle.
Scott Agness of the Fieldhouse Files reports that he will likely be out for at least a week. So I am predicting that either he will be traded by next week or will continue to suffer odd ailments moments before returning to action for the Pacers (slipped in the shower, stuck in traffic, got a splinter while rescuing a kitten from a tree, burnt hands because he forgot to grab the oven mit while baking cookies, etc.)
Meanwhile I will continue to miss tracking the Myles High Club of every player he has blocked in his career and the Pacers having something on the defensive end of the floor that they can count on.
Quick hitters/overreactions/bold predictions:
- The Pacers will have the worst defense in the league this season and maybe all-time.
- Kendall Brown takes Aaron Nesmith’s spot in the rotation by the end of the year.
- Mathurin starts permanently sometime before 2023.
- If Bennedict ever decides to leave for a bigger market after 7+ years, there will be so many Revolutionary War jokes.
- The Pacers finish with the third-worst record in the league.
- The first half actually had the thought that Goga Bitadze might be better than Jalen Smith cross my mind briefly but it was good to see Smith bounce back in that fourth quarter.
- If these are truly the Pacers City-edition Uniforms for this season, they will be on clearance racks for the rest of my life after hopefully no one in the world buys one for any amount of money.
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