PacersrecaP #25: Pacers fall behind early, fall apart late in loss to Timberwolves

So, it may not be the best plan to fall behind by a ton of points and try to make comebacks for nearly all of your team’s wins. Who knew?

The Wolves were up 23 early in the second quarter. The Pacers came all the way back to be up 8 in the third quarter. Then, in a back and forth fourth quarter, the Pacers fell apart in the final minute and lost by a final score of 121-115.

There were plenty of positives to take away from this one. Perhaps the most important of them all: the West coast road trip is over. Rejoice all ye EST fans and respect to ye international watchers that watch these games live no matter the timezone; I seriously have no idea how you do it.

1. Tyrese Haliburton is back and back to his All-Star hopeful ways

Haliburton returned from his sore groin injury that caused him to miss two games and was back to immediately doing things that have never been done before. He had 26 points and 15 assists which is the first time any Pacers player has ever put up 25/15 in a game in franchise history. He also added three steals including a pair of fantastic free safety interceptions that stopped transition opportunities.

Haliburton struggled dealing with the length of Jaden McDaniels in the first game against the Wolves two weeks ago as he shot just 4 for 15 and scored only 10 points in one of the first games that teams tried to match him up with a longer wing this season. He made the necessary adjustments in the second chance against them tonight as he went 9 for 14 to break out of a little shooting slump of late. He hit multiple pull-up 3-pointers to beat the Rudy Gobert drop coverage as Myles Turner had a clear emphasis on making sure he made good contact on his screens in this game. Favorite possession of the game for Haliburton though came on a transition play where Buddy Hield advanced the ball to Haliburton where he could have challenged a few Wolves defenders with a layup attempt. But instead he stopped, slowly dribbled back to the 3-point line, and when none of the Wolves 4 defenders bothered to follow him there but were all corralled to the paint like sheep chased inside their fence, he took the wide open 3 to push the Pacers lead to 8.

At that point with the Pacers +31 after being down by 23, it looked like they had broken the Wolves and would walk away with a W in this one but the bench struggled to start the fourth and D’Angelo Russell got hot and it ended up being the fifth loss in seven games on this trip. In his 36 minutes, the Pacers were +12 with Haliburton on the floor. In 12 minutes without him, they were -17 as both TJ McConnell (-17) and road trip hero Andrew Nembhard (-19) struggled to get much going as the backup point guards in this one.

2. Some slumps are finally broken.

This road trip was unkind to many of the Pacers shooters as the team was 29th in the league in true-shooting percentage during this stretch before last night. While the defense had ranked average, the offense, surprisingly, was the issue for the team as they ranked at the bottom of the league in offensive rating over these nearly two weeks.

Buddy Hield broke through in a big way after making just 28.6% of his 3-pointers in the first 6 games as he went 7 for 11 from 3 against the Wolves. He did get blocked by Gobert with a chance to tie it with under 10 seconds left but 26 points on 60% shooting was nice to see from Hield after a rough trip overall from him.

Haliburton, who we’ve already mentioned, had made just 33% of his 3s on the trip before going 5 for 9 in this one. Myles Turner had an up and down trip but went 8 for 11 overall and 4 for 6 from 3. The one slump that continued is Bennedict Mathurin who has shot just 25% from deep in his last 10 games. He was 5 for 11 from the floor at one point in this game but missed his last five shots. He did make a 3-pointer after missing 15 straight but still went just 1 for 5 on good looks from deep. More and more often, he’s gotten the rookie treatment from the referees on his drives to the basket and that’s hurt both his shooting percentages and his turnover rate. Carlisle did praise him after the game that he’s showing improvement in other areas even while he’s struggled to make shots.

3. Myles Turner had some wild stuff go in the basket in the second half

Turner didn’t take a shot until the Pacers went on their initial run in the second quarter as he scored 8 of the team’s 44. In the second half, everything that Turner threw toward the basket was going in. He prevented a shot clock violation by throwing up a shot behind his head near the basket that went in. He hit another backwards shot on a drive later in the same quarter and then topped it off with a behind-the-back move to avoid the help defender before finishing over a Gobert vertical contest. Multiple of these moments ended with smirks from Myles as he ran back on defense.

Turner kept the team in it late in the fourth with three 3-pointers in the final 3 minutes. The last of these tied the game at 115 with 50.5 seconds remaining but the team was unable to score after that.

On the season now, Turner is averaging career highs in just about everything. 17.8 points per game on 11.3 shots, 8.1 rebounds, and shooting splits of 55.3/41.6/81.2. Each one of those is a career best as Turner continues to play the best basketball of his life at the perfect time for him to secure a bag next summer as long as he can stay healthy after playing only 47 and 42 games the last two seasons. Some people will look at the boxscore and see that Gobert had 21 rebounds and that Turner had 7 and close the book on his game right there. Keep in mind that the Pacers started four guards alongside Turner and the backup bigs in Isaiah Jackson and Goga Bitadze managed 0 rebounds in their 14 minutes. As always, the rebounding issues aren’t a Turner-alone problem.

Turner torched the Wolves defense in the two games against them this season scoring 54 points over the two games and making 11 of 15 3-pointers. Unfortunately both losses.

Stray Observations:

Just wanted to recognize how bad this start was. Painful to watch and the Pacers looked like one of the bottom feeders of the league for the vast majority of this road trip so it was good to see them recover and play well the rest of this game even if it ended in a loss. Hopefully they can play well on this 4-game homestand.

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