PacersrecaP #6: Haliburton and Mathurin put on a show

The Indiana Pacers (3-4) are on a winning streak after hitting a franchise-record 23 3-point shots as they beat the Brooklyn Nets (1-5) by a final score of 125-116. 

The backcourt dynamic duo of Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin led the way in this one as they gave everyone an enticing glimpse into the Pacers future while combining for 58 points and twelve 3-pointers. They dominated the Nets to the point of their head coach Steve Nash calling his team’s performance a “disaster.” That’s what happens when you don’t play Edmond Sumner, Steve.

#1 Bennedict. Mathurin. Wow.

32 points off the bench for the Pacers rookie sensation. After a so-so performance the previous night in D.C. where he wasn’t his usual ultra-aggressive self, Mathurin made his impact immediately and efficiently after entering the game with 4:19 left in the first quarter. Over four straight possessions, Mathurin drawed a foul, hit a layup on a drive, found Goga Bitadze inside for an assist, and hit a 3-pointer quickly cutting the Nets lead from 19-11 to 22-20 in the process.

The Pacers offense started off a little timid like they had a hint of stage fright with the stage lights in Brooklyn. Mathurin, never afraid of a challenge and already seems to be the kind of guy that rises to the occasion, was the perfect antidote to wake the team up from its back-to-back slumber.

“I watched [KD and Kyrie] growing up, and I felt like tonight was an opportunity for me to show out,” said Mathurin of playing against the Nets. “I think I did pretty well.”

Mathurin embraces contact like Kyrie Irving embraces conspiracy theories and anti-semitic views. He dives into the paint with abandon like Irving dives into a YouTube rabbit hole. While Mathurin earns trips to the foul line for his efforts, Irving just earns ignorance. Mathurin made all 10 of his free throws. Irving played victim and doubled down on all of his nonsense.

In the first half, he scored 22 points on 5 of 8 shooting overall, 4 of 5 from deep, and 8 of 8 from the free-throw line. He started the second half and immediately hit a 3-pointer but then was much quieter with that group than he has been coming off the bench. Part of it is likely that both he and Buddy Hield ideally are running around screens off-ball to get a lot of their looks but when both are out there, it’s typically the veteran Hield with those duties while Mathurin waits for his chance to pounce on a closeout or cut inside from one of the corners.

The Pacers resident Raphael never stops fighting and showed that especially on a pair of offensive rebounds in the second half and being responsible for two of three straight offensive rebounds late in the fourth that sealed the Nets fate. He’s already perfecting his troll game; first, with his late steal of college teammate Dalen Terry against the Bulls, and tonight, he held out an open hand to dap Ben Simmons up while Simmons stood at the foul line. Simmons refused to engage but Mathurin kept the hand there for an awkward amount of time and only relented when Buddy pulled him away. Simmons missed the first free throw.

At this point, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Mathurin wins Sixth Man of the Year but loses the Rookie of the Year race to Paolo Banchero, who has scored over 20 points in all of his games so far with the Magic. Or he could win both.

#2 The new normal for Tyrese Haliburton

Haliburton continued to look like an All Star. I’m running out of words to describe his joyous performances. Tonight, it was all about his jump shot that’s as awkward as it is pure like the quiet girl you knew from a church youth group. He hit 6 of his first 7 attempts from deep in this one including multiple that came from the other boroughs in NYC. His final make in the corner saw him turn around and say something to a courtside fan. Hmmm where have we seen that from a Pacers player in New York before?

“Don’t bring me into this,” said Spike.

While his efficiency cooled off from his 17 points on only 7 shots in the first half, he still finished with a smooth 26 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. One of the steals was a thing of beauty in transition where Kevin Durant was starting the break and expected Haliburton to get back and play it safe on defense, but Haliburton read the push-ahead pass and timed it perfectly. One second later, he found Mathurin open for a 3 and it was a quick 5-point swing.

This backcourt duo is going to be so fun to watch for the next decade. The B00m Br0thers (shoutout to r/pacers for that one) combined for 39 first-half points on just 15 shot attempts including 8 of 10 from 3. Watch out, Steph and Klay.

#3 Isaiah Jackson rises over and over and over

Jackson has had a slow start to his second season due to some combination of teams being more prepared for his high-flying alley oops on the pick and roll, foul trouble, and curious choices in the rotation. I love Terry Taylor, but I still don’t quite understand why Jackson wasn’t starting to begin the year with Myles Turner out. For only the third time in his career, Jackson played over 30 minutes and he took advantage of the increased playing time. The Pacers outscored the Nets by 25 while he was on the court. No one else had a higher +/- than +9 (Mathurin and Chris Duarte).

IJax started off quiet with just 4 points (2 for 5) in the first half as he missed a couple easy ones inside where seemed to be thinking too much. In the second half, he just dunked on the souls of the Nets defenders repeatedly with an impressive array of tip dunks and alley oop finishes, often using his elite second jump. He had 14 points (6 for 8) in the second half and finished with a line of 18 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. Jackson hurt the Nets on the offensive glass often and set up Mathurin’s cherry on top of a road win sundae with an offensive rebound and pass to the cutting rookie for a dunk.

Stray Observations

  • Buddy Hield continued his hot stretch with 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists. His chaotic off-ball movement opens up so many things for the Pacers offense and creates high quality looks for himself. It’s fun to watch Hield without the ball.
  • Chris Duarte looked like he was in line for another rough performance but he found his shooting stroke in the second half, hitting a tough 3-pointer in the corner and two deep threes that helped push the Pacers lead to double digits.
  • You may have missed those Duarte shots due to the struggles of Bally Sports who decided to show commercial after commercial without even a notice about technical difficulties for the first 10 minutes or so of the problem as they were unable to broadcast the game from two minutes left in the third until six minutes left in fourth. Technical difficulties happen on occasion but that was about the worst way to handle it.
  • Jalen Smith struggled to get much going offensively as he was often bothered by the long arms of Durant. He made just 3 of 14 shots but he made his presence felt on the glass with 14 rebounds with half of them coming on the offensive end. All things considered, he did a decent job on Durant at times on the defensive end as well.
  • James Johnson likely got minutes because of his familiarity with Durant from his time with the Nets but I could do without any possessions where Johnson brings the ball up the court, comes off a screen, and immediately shoots a short jump shot with no passes. He seems like a great fit as a locker room presence and veteran leader but no thanks on those plays.
  • Andrew Nembhard gets the backup point guard minutes. With McConnell out, the Gonzaga rookie got his first chance of running the show with the bench group. While he couldn’t nail down many shots (1 of 6), he did manage five assists and continues to look like a solid player, all you can reasonably hope for from a second-round pick.
  • Yuta Watanabe had the first ever own goal tip dunk in NBA history. It was an odd play but he grabbed the rebound with force but his momentum that brought him straight to 2 points for the Pacers.
  • I better see some Sumner on Monday.

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