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:

  • Jermaine O’Neal in 2004-05: 9.2 FTA per 36, .458 FTR
  • Reggie Miller in 1990-91: 7.3 FTA per 36, .515 FTR
  • Danny Granger in 2009-10: 6.8 FTA per 36, .376 FTR
  • Paul George in 2015-16: 6.7 FTA per 36, .364 FTR
  • Victor Oladipo in 2017-18: 5.2 FTA per 36, .274 FTR
  • The player formerly known as Ron Artest in 2002-03: 5.8 FTA per 36, .429 FTR

The Pacers have never really had this type of driving guard that does so much of his damage at the foul line. These aren’t these players career averages either but their best seasons in these statistics while on the Pacers. George, for example, seemed to get a post-injury boost in calls that he never got close to before or after while in Indiana. Miller’s FTR in his third season of .515 was significantly higher than his second best season of .487.

The way he earns these free throws has been so impressive. This screencap above from Caitlin Cooper is from a play he finished at the rim with an and-1 bucket. When Mathurin gets into the paint, he’s like a running back looking for the tiniest hole to pierce through the defense as he powers through to the rim. He’s not getting to the line by manipulating contact and flailing his arms, he goes into the paint with full force and earns contact through genuine basketball actions as defenses try and so often fail to stop him.

In total against the Heat, he went to the line for 12 attempts which was over 50% of the Pacers total attempts at the line. With their prized rookie leading the way, the Pacers rank 9th in the league in FTA per game which is their highest rank in that statistic since 2012-13 when they ranked 8th.

2. Myles Turner bounces back, takes advantage of the switching Heat

Turner had a nice bounce back performance after his disappointing outing against the Nets. He and the Pacers offense took advantage of Miami’s switching scheme in ways that they’ve rarely been able to since switching has been a big trend in the league. In the first quarter alone, Turner caught it in the post and immediately rose for a shot over Kyle Lowry, drew a foul on Caleb Martin, tipped an offensive rebound over Bam Adebayo who was trying to switch back late, and scored on a perfect high-low pass for an and-1 from Jalen Smith that the Pacers as a team has struggled to consistently complete for years.

Turner finished with 16 points (7 of 9), 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks that were all vicious in their own way. He prevented a Caleb Martin dunk with a smothering at the summit, blocked Max Strus so hard off the backboard that it was like a kid breaking a paddleball from its string and also served as an outlet pass to start a fast break, and blocked Strus again in the game’s final minute on a goaltending call that was eventually overturned.

3. Andrew Nembhard’s passing wizardry

The Pacers second-round rookie continues to make plays and give Carlisle plenty of reasons to leave him on the floor. In this one, his passing prowess stood out above the rest. He finished with 6 assists in his 28 minutes and among those were a bounce pass with perfect back spin on a fast break outlet, a perfectly placed lob to Isaiah Jackson, and a nasty jump bounce pass behind himself to a cutting T.J. McConnell.

Nembhard also had some impressive defensive plays as well. Two stops at the rim earned through textbook verticality plays and he was who Carlisle trusted to guard Tyler Herro with the game on the line in the final possessions. Carlisle praised his defensive effort to force a fading away deep 3-pointer without fouling in that situation. Even with Nembhard struggling to consistently hit his own shots, he seems to make positive contributions whenever he’s on the floor. He went 2 for 8 tonight but was +13.

4. Chris Duarte injury update

Unfortunately for Chris Duarte, his sprained ankle will sideline him for 4-6 weeks according to Adrian Wojnarowski. A bummer after he had finally broken through his slump to start his sophomore season in the previous game. With Nesmith still dealing with his injury as well, it may be time for Mathurin to move into the starting five and never look back.

Stray Observations

  • Jalen Smith went scoreless in 11 minutes in this one. This wasn’t the best matchup for Smith but you would have liked to see him take more advantage of his size against the smaller Heat defenders on the glass if nowhere else. He finished with as many turnovers (3) and as rebounds and assists combined. Pacers were outscored by 14 in his 11 minutes. Third straight struggle of a game for Smith who oscillates between looking like he’s the best player on the floor to the worst. Unfortunately, it’s been more of the latter in the past week.
  • YGTMYFTs. The Pacers could have won this game without the late drama if they connected on more of their free throws. Indiana missed 8 of their 23 attempts while Miami made all 26 of their shots at the line. Tyrese Haliburton missed more free throws in this game (3) than he had all season prior (2). Myles Turner missed 2 of his 3. Mathurin made 9 of his first 10 but missed 1 of 2 with a chance to push the lead to 3 points before the Heat’s final possession.
  • Buddy Hield continues to be a human microwave, heating up and sending the Pacers on a personal run at any moment. He was the driving force behind the Pacers big second quarter run and finished with 25 points (10 of 18) and 9 rebounds.
  • Tyrese Haliburton finished with a near triple double with 22/9/9. After having seven turnovers in his previous game, he had just one against Miami. He continued his season-long pattern of strong second halves with a 10-point burst during the opening stretch of the third quarter including a pair of long 3-pointers.
  • The Pacers have been toying with small lineup groups that feature four guards all season. Early on it was Goga and the Four Guards but the band has had multiple frontmen over these first nine games with Myles Turner and Isaiah Jackson protecting the paint in this one. The Heat were surrounding Bam Adebayo with four shooters and without Butler, the Pacers generally won these minutes.
  • This might be the most into-the-game fan I’ve ever witnessed in the balcony. The man stood from tip to the final buzzer, reacting strongly to every big play or whistle. After one of many Buddy Hield buckets in the first half, he took off his Domantas Sabonis Pacers jersey and started waving it around like a rally flag. It was an experience in itself to watch him experience the game. If ever there was someone that belonged in a fan section, he certainly does. Kudos to you, sir.

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