PacersrecaP #1: an ugly game turns thrilling late as Pacers lose against Spurs

The Indiana Pacers are 0-2 after a valiant effort to comeback came up short against the San Antonio Spurs as they lost 137-134.

Welcome to PacersrecaP where every column ends the way it began 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.

Alright, this article is already more off the rails than the Pacers defense over the first two games of the season or that train in Inception. I promise that’s the last Nolan reference—until I think of another one.

To the game! Here are my stray thoughts, scattered observations on game two of the season:

#1 Andrew Nembhard was impressive in his debut.

Nembhard was a big part of the Pacers comeback and showed off his impressive instincts and feel for the game, making numerous high I.Q. plays while stuffing the stat sheet with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 4 hacks on Jakob Poeltl, and a pair of charges drawn. He was a team-high +11.

#2 Bennedict Mathurin is a fearless driving machine

Mathurin was impressive yet again starting off with 16 points in 15 first-half minutes off the bench. He started the second half but was much quieter in the offense than he has been with the bench lineups as he didn’t score in the third quarter but then finished with 26 points as he partook in the flurry of points the Pacers put up during the Hackob period.

Mathurin blew by people on his way to the rim, continued to show absolutely zero fear for whoever was standing in his way at the rim, bounced back at the foul line by making 7 of 8.

#3 Goga and the Four Guards, The Hackob and lots of lineups

Rick Carlisle tried more lineups in this one game than some teams will play for an entire month, searching frantically for some combination of five players that can “play with force” as he put it after the game, clearly missing avid Star Wars fan Myles Turner.

The best lineups of the night were also the most outrageous. In the first half, the Pacers made their best initial run with everyone’s new favorite band: Goga and the Four Guards. Goga Bitadze was flanked by the unlikely quartet of T.J. McConnell, Andrew Nembhard, Aaron Nesmith, and Bennedict Mathurin.

Unfortunately that group’s work was all almost immediately undone when the starters came back in and the Spurs lead ballooned up to 15 and it stayed in that vicinity until Carlisle’s next wild idea with 5:38 left. After a timeout, the Pacers came onto the floor with Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard, Buddy Hield, and Terry Taylor.

Carlisle realized the team had no intention of playing defense and decided to lean into that completely with the Hack a Jakob or the Hackob if you will. Poeltl, a career 51.8% foul shooter, slowly let the Pacers lineup of 6’5” players chip away at the lead one missed free throw at a time.

The Pacers finished with 49 points in the quarter and after Haliburton made three free throws and then got a steal and finished a layup at the other end, they trailed by just one for a moment. But Mathurin’s 3-pointer at the buzzer fell well short.

#4 The Pacers defense continues to be very bad.

The Spurs continued the dishonored tradition of having every long, big wing shoot lights out from deep against the lowly Pacers defense. Josh Richardson, Devin Vassell, and Keldon Johnson combined for 14 made 3-pointers on 24 attempts (58%).

Richardson was hitting so many shots that it felt like the Lakers might decide to give up their ‘27 and ‘29 first-round picks for him and Poeltl until the Pacer started hacking the center in the fourth.

Pacers gave up between 32 and 36 points in every single quarter of this one (hey, consistency!).

#5 Jalen Smith was not having a good time

Smith lost his starting spot just six quarters into the season. This may just be a temporary thing but he has struggled in the majority of the first two games while filling in for Myles Turner at center. Bitadze started for him in the second half today and once Smith finally did get back in the game in the third quarter he got whacked in the face which resulted in a bloody nose and sitting out the remainder of the game.

Quick hitters:

  • Tyrese Haliburton bounced back from a 2 for 9 start to make 7 of his last 9 attempts. He finished with 27 points and 12 assists while continuing to look the part of a future star and number one option.
  • Chris Duarte has really struggled to find success in the first two games. Disappointing start for the second-year shooting guard.
  • Isaiah Jackson had some nice moments in this game scoring 16 points in 16 minutes. I’m not sure what he’s got to do to play more minutes especially with no Turner in the lineup.
  • This loss could be very important come the end of the season in regards to the lottery standings.
  • I don’t know what Oshae Brissett did to get himself firmly planted on the bench but I don’t like it.
  • Everything I wrote here after the team’s first game now has twice as much evidence that it is 100% factual. Just saying.

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