In another battle against a team full of large wings, the Indiana Pacers came away saying, “Who needs wings anyway?” as they collected their fourth straight win and sixth in their last seven with a 122-114 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
In case you haven’t been here before, welcome to PacersrecaP where every column ends the way it began much like a Christopher Nolan film. Think of it like Tenet, confusing at first, no one knows what I’m talking about but slowly it starts to make more sense as time goes on. Or maybe I just like palindromes and couldn’t resist being clever for the sake of being clever … like a Christopher Nolan film.
In reality, this column tries to highlight the standout events, performances, and whatever else catches my eye in hopefully a fun and creative way. Let’s get to it:
Bennedict Mathurin is a glorious antagonist
Mathurin led the Pacers in scoring with 21 points and was a team-high +21 on the night where the bench units were the decisive factor in the victory. But better than the efficient night from the floor than featured more free throw attempts (7 for 10) than shot attempts (6 for 9) was how he was able to get under the skin of multiple members of the Raptors organization.
OG Anunoby got a technical foul after an uncalled Fred VanVleet take foul committed against Mathurin that eventually led to Mathurin running into the former Hoosier and Anunoby grabbed his arm before pushing him away. Then after Mathurin missed the free throw, a Raptors assistant coach had a few words for Mathurin.
The Pacers rookie, a man of few words, told Jamaal Magloire to “keep that same energy.”
The Pacers were down six to the Raptors with 3:25 left in the third quarter at the time of the play. Mathurin scored 6 points including the tough triple above and another couple trips to the free-throw line in that timeframe to help the bench take a 1-point lead heading into the fourth.
Mathurin, the troll, the antagonist, the guy you hate to play against, has been a developing trend over his rookie season. It goes back to his late-game steal against college teammate Dalen Terry with the game already decided and trash-talking Jaden Ivey against the Pistons. Not to mention how frustrating it can be to play against a guy that’s good at forcing referees to call fouls (though I’m thankful he’s making basketball moves when he earns his fouls far more than the flopping whistle hunters like James Harden and Jimmy Butler). I’d imagine playing against both him and the full-court pest in TJ McConnell has to be something opponents don’t enjoy especially second units.
Caitlin Cooper recently broke down Mathurin’s pet jab step move in a way that only she can. If you haven’t read it yet, you should fix that soon.
The bench wore the overworked Raptors down
Elsewhere on the bench TJ McConnell ran circles around Malachi Flynn and scored 15 points. He attempted a career high 7 free throws (he’d taken a total of 19 in his previous 34 games this season). Jalen Smith put up a double double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 17 minutes.
All five played off the bench were at least +9 and none of the Pacers starters were positive in this game thanks to slow starts in both halves. The Pacers bench outscored the Raptors bench 54-7 in this game but none of the guys off the opponent’s bench played all that much either.
The Pacers bench was able to keep the starters fresh for the fourth quarter as none of the starters played more than 32 minutes. Meanwhile, the Raptors ran out of gas trying to keep up with the pace of Indiana as all of their starters played at least 36 minutes and four of them played either 39 or 40 minutes.
You could see the effects on the Raptors in their 3-point attempts as they made just 4 of their 21 shots from deep in the second half—including eight misses in the fourth that all seemed to fall short. Toronto started hot by making nine of their first 15 before going ice cold. The Pacers pulled off the reverse by making just two of their first 14 3-pointers and then finishing the rest of the game by making eight of their final 13 attempts with multiple coming from the fresh legs of the starters down the stretch.
Somehow I didn’t realize until today that former Pacers head coach (New) Nate Bjorkgren (seeing his face on the broadcast on the Raptors sideline was like suddenly remembering a strange dream from your childhood) obviously got his overwork-his-best-players-with-ludicrous-amount-of-minutes philosophy from his pal Nick Nurse. It doesn’t feel like it’ll be long before Nurse becomes the new Thibs in terms of poster child for high-minute loads.
Tyrese Haliburton and OG Anunoby have a post-game conversation they’d rather not be lip read
After the final buzzer sounded, Tyrese Haliburton and OG Anunoby dapped each other up and conversed a bit before Haliburton covered his mouth with his hands to continue the conversation and Anunoby did the same.
This is likely nothing and silly to even spend any time on at all but … after Paul George and LeBron James had numerous moments like this post-game—before George requested to be traded to only the Lakers a year before James ended up in Los Angeles as a free agent—and Victor Oladipo openly asked opponents “can come play with y’all?”—before eventually getting to the place he “always wanted to go” in Miami—it’s hard not to let the mind wander at this moment a little bit.
What topics could they be covering that they wouldn’t want others to know about? Avoiding spoilers to the White Lotus for lip reading eavesdroppers? Considerate of them but unlikely as it’s been finished for weeks now. Perhaps they bet on the loser needing to share a secret ingredient of a family recipe? Everyone knows it’s nutmeg, OG. Just let it out.
Anunoby, the IU prospect that got away in the infamous TJ Leaf draft, is the ideal wing that the Pacers are missing. A defensive monster that leads the league in steals, can guard anyone on the floor most nights, and is a very capable offensive player. He’ll also be a highly coveted free agent in the summer of 2024 if he declines his player option. Don’t get carried away but store this in the old memory bank for down the road.
- The Pacers were picking on Thad Young for a few possessions. Myles Turner pulled off a move that I don’t think Young ever saw his former teammate do in practice or a game before as he drove down the lane and stopped suddenly before pivoting back into an easy jumper. Young went flying by as Turner picked up his dribble. Then Haliburton got him in the air with a fake lob pass and stepped right by him for a layup. They were two beautiful plays. Turner followed his 34-point outburst against the Clippers with an 18-point, 11-rebound effort that featured a ridiculous block in transition on Gary Trent, Jr.
- Andrew Nembhard hasn’t had to be a lead guard like he was in Golden State but having another guy that’s a really good passer on the floor has been very fun for the Pacers starting group. He only had 3 assists but each of them were highlights: a lob to Turner, a bounce pass behind the defender to Turner that even Turner wasn’t expecting him to make but was still easily able to grab the perfect pass and finish, and a patient find to a cutting Aaron Nesmith. His defense has been fantastic all season and he’s an unbelievable glue guy for a rookie.
2 thoughts on “Bennedict Mathurin, the antagonist, a win streak, and secret conversations: PacersrecaP #30”
Maybe we trade a valuable asset like Duarte, something they don’t have, for OG something we don’t have. Duarte has to get healed up and get back to what he can be.
OG trade would take a lot. Lots of teams would be bidding for his services.