PacersrecaP #5: The Haliburton leap, Monster Myles, and TMNT

The Indiana Pacers didn’t lay an egg on national television! It felt necessary to start there. They beat the Washington Wizards as they played well throughout the game on their way to a 127-117 win in what is their only scheduled game on ESPN or TNT this season.

In what was a reverse game script of the first five games, the Pacers were the ones that blitzed their opponent to start the game as a 22-2 run turned an 8-13 deficit into a 30-15 advantage and the Wizards were suddenly the ones trying to put together runs and constantly working uphill. Much like the Pacers in their losses, the Wizards also kept fighting but couldn’t get it any closer than 6 points as Indiana was able to consistently hit timely 3-pointers (15 of 29) or get to the foul line (30 of 33). Every Pacers starter scored at least 15 points and played over 30 minutes in this one. 

#1 Tyrese Haliburton puts on a show for the national audience.

Tyrese Haliburton has repeated his personal goals on a few outlets in the last few months:

  • Average 20 points and 10 assists
  • Be an All-Star

And well, both of those are well within reach. After he scored 25 points and dished out 12 assists on ESPN, he’s checking that first goal off his list about every night as he has averaged 23 points and 10.3 assists. His efficiency numbers are out of this world but also aren’t so high above his typical averages that you feel like a big dropoff is coming. His shooting splits enter the rarified 50/40/90 territory at 51.1/41.3/93.1; the only one of these that has really jumped from his time with the Pacers last season is the free-throw percentage (84.9 to 93.1). The assists might be the toughest part to keep above 10 but he’s got at least 10 in five straight games and became the first Pacers player to do so since Mark Jackson in 1999-2000. If he keeps this up, the Eastern Conference coaches will have a hard time keeping him off of the All-Star roster.

In this one, it was a highlight reel full of no-look passes, splashed 3-pointers, an array of “How-did-he-do-that?” moments and a too-small gesture to a fellow Iowa State Cyclone in Monte Morris. First, Bennedict Mathurin steals the ball from his former college teammate at Arizona, Dalen Terry, in a meaningless possession and now this? I hope this is a trend that continues all year. Watch out, Jarrett Allen and Jaxson Hayes, Myles Turner is going to embarrass you in some kind of way. Andrew Nembhard is going to cross up Domantas Sabonis and send him to the floor. Isaiah Jackson is throwing down his best alley oop finish of the season right on top of Karl Anthony Towns.

I see what you did there Pacers social media manager

#2 Myles Turner reminds us of his impact on both ends when he’s at his best.

27 points. 10 rebounds. 5 blocks. Have yourself a game, big fella.

Turner got the Pacers started in this by hitting a 3 pointer on the opening possession and he was a big part of the 22-2 run in the first quarter with multiple blocks that set up transition opportunities. He passed Roy Hibbert for 4th on the all-time Pacers block leaders list and sits at 993 for his career. 

Turner did a ton of his damage at the free-throw line where he hit all 10 of his attempts and made 3 of his 4 attempts from deep. It only took him one game to find his rhythm after struggling on offense in his first game in 10 months and playing with a completely new starting lineup. The only players that Turner has had much experience with are T.J. McConnell and Chris Duarte. 

One possession that likely felt good for Myles came with him being guarded by rookie Johnny Davis in the post, as the ball was getting swung around the perimeter it came to Haliburton. Haliburton pointed straight to Turner on the low block and then passed it to Hield who made the post entry pass which led to one of the many fouls drawn by the big man on the night. It was the kind of play over the years where Turner would either be ignored or the Pacers simply incapable of making a basic post entry pass.

The Pacers cross-matched with Kristaps Porzingis by fronting him with smaller players and used Turner in a more of Robert Williams III roaming helpside role that allowed him to wreak havoc at the rim. It’s a role that suits him and it’ll be interesting to see if the Pacers do this more often or if it’s mostly a Porizingis thing as they’ve done this in both games against the Wizards.

Performances like this probably make it more likely that some team gives up what Kevin Pritchard is looking for in exchange for the block king and if Myles Turner’s time in Indiana does eventually come to an end this season as many expect, I’m going to miss watching him play (especially against the Wizards who he scored 40 against early last season).

#3 Aaron Nesmith is gaining confidence.

The Pacers may have hit on their third 2020 lottery pick acquisition behind Haliburton and Jalen Smith as well. His defense has been good all season but with more minutes and consistent playing time, Nesmith seems to be finding his footing on offense as well. He’s made 4 of 6 shots in each of the last two games and finished with a season-high 15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal. He’s played in at least 17 minutes in every game this season. Last year with the Celtics, he only had 10 such games and never more than two in a row.

#4 Buddy Hield with 25 for the second straight night

If Turner was the defensive key to the Pacers great start, Hield was the offensive igniter as he hit four 3-pointers in the opening frame and finished with 25 points for the second straight game. Meanwhile, the Lakers are now 0-5 and have hit the least amount of 3s in the league this season at 42 with a putrid percentage of 23.7%. Hield’s hit 24 himself at 44.4%. I promise I won’t keep bringing the Lakers up here but their general fan attitude towards what the Lakers should give up and acting like the Pacers should just hand them over for nothing certainly makes this winless start for the Lakers even sweeter. Although, they need to figure something out before they end up handing those precious lottery balls to the already deep New Orleans Pelicans who have swap rights with Los Angeles for their pick.

#5 Bennedict Mathurin is quiet.

A mic’d up segment with Lloyd Pierce telling Mathurin that he was looking to pass too much and to “be aggressive, the passing will come from your aggression to score” summed up his performance in this one. He went 4 of 11 from the floor and scored 11 points but he wasn’t as forceful with getting himself into the game as normal. Some of that might have been the Pacers actually getting off to a good start for the first time all season and Hield still on the floor and on fire when the rookie first came in. This may have had the effect of Mathurin deferring to the hot shooting veteran and not wanting to mess with the flow the team had. I fully expect Mathurin to come out aggressive tonight against the Nets and put his imprint on the game early.

Now that I have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on your mind. Super confident and with the talent to back it up, his method of attack forces him into contact with the opponent, Mathurin is 100% the Raphael.

But he’s not the leader, Tyrese Haliburton is the obvious Leonardo. He does the right thing, sometimes defers too much to his more exuberant brothers. Donatello is Jalen Smith. Rec specs, enough said. Michelangelo is the only one that’s tough to nail down. Lance Stephenson runs away with this one if he was still around but alas. I’ll go with Buddy for now because he and Tyrese talk often about how they fight all the time like brothers. The obvious choice for Splinter is Rick Carlisle but James Johnson gives me major Splinter vibes and he has a black belt.

#6 Andrew Nembhard continues to impress with his feel in limited minutes.

Nembhard had a nice play in this one where he caught a pass that was a bit off target in the corner then drove baseline and threw the easiest lob to Turner. He doesn’t force anything offensively but is capable of making looks from deep and just generally makes the right play. He’s also had some nice defensive moments in the last few games including a few possessions on Bradley Beal where he was able to force a contested jump shot and miss from the All Star. He slapped the ball off of the taller Kyle Kuzma, who tried to post him up on one possession. By the end of the year, he should be soaking up all of T.J. McConnell’s minutes. He just seems like a great glue guy on the perimeter.

I’ll leave you with the terrifying thought that the Pacers are tied for the final play-in spot at 2-4. The Sixers, Heat, and Nets are all right in that area currently and the Magic and Pistons are one game behind at 1-5. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if the Pacers were in a play-in situation at the end of the year IF they were .500 or better, that would be a major sign that Haliburton and others are growing and learning how to win quickly but they should want nothing to do with it if they are well below .500 as they are expected to be. Get another lottery pick to add to this promising core over sneaking into the playoffs somehow just to get swept right now. Enjoy these early season wins, they are needed for morale and these standings items will take care of themselves as time goes on.

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