PacersrecaP #9.2: A glimpse into the Pacers future and eye-popping stats through 10 games

The Indiana Pacers beat the New Orleans Pelicans and I decided to break it all down in two parts. If you missed part one on the excellent vibes of this group and a dive into the rollercoaster of Myles Turner’s first five games, check that out right here.

Let’s jump right into things.

Bet you weren’t expecting a jumping TJ Leaf to show up in this one. Me either; I don’t know what to tell you. This caption is too long, my gif choice is bad, let’s just move on.

#2 Tyrese Haliburton is too fun, man.

In what has become a classic Tyrese formula in the team’s first 10 games, Haliburton started off this one slowly offensively, taking only four shots in the first half, focusing on getting his teammates going, and then he just took over in the second half. In this one, the slow start for his own point total came at least partially due to the coverages he was seeing from the Pelicans defense, but he came out in the third quarter and just drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer with the briefest windows as the Pelicans switched on Hield’s ghosted screens or pulling up on a big in drop coverage.

He did very little inside the arc in this one but he simply didn’t need to. His first six made buckets were all 3-pointers which tied a career high and he added his seventh made bucket with a smooth transition layup on his only 2-pointer of the night and finished with 20 points (7 of 14) with 13 assists and 2 steals.

He and future backcourt partner Bennedict Mathurin had the sequence of the night as Haliburton found Mathurin cutting on the baseline for a perfect alley oop and after a quick stop on the other end, Haliburton hit Mathurin as a trailer on the wing who then passed it back to an open Haliburton for his third 3-pointer of the quarter forcing a Pelicans timeout and inspiring the picture of the pair seen above.

The Ringer also just put out a great Q&A with the young Pacers duo. The best quote comes from Mathurin on Haliburton, “even when I don’t think he sees me, he sees me.”

He and Buddy Hield continue to be a hilarious pair to watch in the moments that come after timeouts or whistles. Their friendly contest for pride on who will have more dunks this season has resulted in many dunks: Tyrese 2, Buddy 0 through 10 games. But after Haliburton gave Hield the absolute perfect opportunity to get his first one of the season and he put in a simple lay up in transition and quickly gave Hield two thumbs down and let the bench know about it. Hield reacted like this:

This old married couple may eventually be forced to separate but their show is as good as any of those classic family sitcoms on whatever channel still shows reruns these days. Is Nick at Nite still a thing?

After going 6 for 10 from 3 in this one, Haliburton is now shooting 46.3% from deep and his season counting numbers continue to look ridiculous at 21.7 points, 9.7 assists, 5 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. His blistering percentage from deep is even more impressive by the fact that he’s often taking those threes from multiple feet behind the line. He continues to look like he’ll be making a run at the All-Star game and for Most Improved Player.

#3 Andrew Nembhard shines in his first start

Nembhard entered the starting lineup as the Pacers opted to keep Mathurin coming off the bench in the wake of injuries to Chris Duarte and Aaron Nesmith and he took great advantage. He scored 15 points and added 5 assists and 2 steals. It was his best shooting night of the season as he started off hot with 10 points on four shot attempts in the first half and made 3 of his 4 3-pointers overall. He looked like he got a confidence boost by the starting nod as well hitting a couple of tough shots inside the arc off the bounce including a floating fader off the backboard.

Most impressive, however, continued to be his work on the defensive end. CJ McCollum scored just 9 points on 11 shot attempts in this game while primarily being guarded by the rookie second-round pick from Gonzaga. Carlisle complimented his game by saying, “He did what he does, which is play an old-school game with a lot of moxie.” I don’t really know what that means but I’m going to imagine Nembhard as a detective in a black-and-white noir movie or maybe a gangster from the 1920s from now on.

In a game with TJ McConnell and Jose Alvarado, it was Nembhard who had the best backcourt sneak steal as he lurked in the alleyway ready to leap out on the unsuspecting Brandon Ingram who tried desperately to foul him after the steal but Nembhard powered through for the easy layup.

Plays like that, or when he’s plowed through Bam Adebayo or been called for a foul while fronting Kevin Durant without budging an inch have made his strength evident as well. Both Pacers rookies currently in the rotation aren’t the typical weight-room projects and seem to have a lot of functional strength early in their careers. 

Stray Observations:

  • Jalen Smith had a rough 3-game stretch against the Nets and Heat but had a much-needed bounce back performance against the large New Orleans Pelicans with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Even after making 3 of his 7 attempts from deep in this game, he’s shooting just 29.7% from 3 on the season. Before that 3-game stretch where he scored 8, 3, and 0 points, he had put together 5 of 6 games with at least 15 points scored. All together, he’s averaging 11 points, 8 rebounds on the season in 24 minutes per game. He’s been similar to Myles Turner so far this season in that all or nothing, up and down kind of way. A positive for both of them has been how well their pairing has played together to start the season, over 87 minutes, the Pacers have a net rating of +7.4 with both starting bigs on the court.
  • The Indiana Pacers are tied with the 4th-best rebound percentage in the league. Maybe the most surprising development for the team this season is how good of a rebounding group they’ve been. They beat the Pelicans in the rebounding battle which is no small feat against Zion and Valanciunas. While they start two bigs in Turner and Smith, they play a ton of minutes with four guards and a lone big on the floor. They are doing a ton of damage on the offensive glass as they currently grab a third of their misses and rank 2nd in the league in OREB% at 33%. Defensively, they’re up to 7th in the league.
  • Other interesting statistics for the Pacers: 2nd in the league in AST% at 68.9%, which measures the percentage of their baskets that are assisted, a clear benefit to having one the best passing guards in the league and his unselfishness has been contagious for the rest of the roster. Their net rating is negative but only slightly at -0.9, this would be a sign that their .500 record may be close to what they should be as long as they keep some of these veterans around. Even in losses, they’ve been able to fight back and keep games close at the end. The Pacers have the 6th-best offensive rating in the league at 114.7 and they play at the 5th-highest pace in the league. They are hitting the second-most 3-pointers per game in the league while shooting 37.9 percent from deep which is 9th in the league.
  • Bennedict Mathurin has an unusually quiet night with his first single-digit scoring effort. Mathurin wasn’t his typical ultra-aggressive self in this one, often settling for his outside shot that wasn’t quite falling and only getting to the free-throw for three attempts. He blew up Devontae Graham on a charge early in the game like a running back bursting through a defender and didn’t drive a ton after that in this one. He did move the ball well and had five assists but the last time he had a similar game to this one, he had his career high of 32 points in the very next game. I’ll be expecting him to come out with some immediate force against the Nuggets. 
  • Terry Taylor got some run in this one but he continues to be oddly silent on the glass this year. In six minutes in this one, he missed a 3-pointer and did nothing else that made it into the box score.
  • Isaiah Jackson and Myles Turner got minutes together! More please!

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