The Indiana Pacers cannot stop winning games after being down by double digits. After tonight’s 114-113 win against the Orlando Magic after being down by as many as 10 in the first half, the Pacers completed their fourth straight comeback win and five of their nine wins have been from games in which they trailed by at least 10.
At 9-6, the Pacers now are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for 4th in the Eastern Conference and so continues the continuously surprising, exciting start to the Pacers rebuild. They’ve now won eight of their last 10 games after their 1-4 start. Their chemistry continues to be discussed as the reason they’ve been so successful in this stretch.
“We’re growing together as a group, getting better every day,” said Tyrese Haliburton after the game, “becoming closer on and off the floor. That’s allowed us to have trust in each other to play these games.”
1. The Aaron Nesmith Game
Aaron Nesmith was scoreless in three of his last four games. Tonight, he made his first four 3-pointers and scored the last 5 points for the Pacers with a clutch 3-pointer with 1:37 left that immediately matched a stepback triple from Franz Wagner that gave the Magic a brief 4-point lead and a huge contested offensive rebound with less than 10 seconds left that ended up with Nesmith earning a trip to the foul line where he buried both free throws to give the Pacers the lead for good. To cap it all off, it was Nesmith on the final play of the game who earned the stop on Wagner and clinched the game once and for all.
Before last night, Nesmith had only made 9 of 32 from deep (28%). He boosted his season average to a number closer to league average at 35% after going 5 of 8.
He finished with a career-high 19 points (previously 18 with the Celtics) and his 5 3-pointers were also a personal best. His active defense and hot shooting were the difference in this game as the Pacers outscored the Magic by 17 in his 25 minutes. The Pacers celebrated by nearly taking out his ACL as he slipped from the surprise water bottle pouring during the post-game interview. Fortunately, he was fine and laughing about it.
2. Tyrese Haliburton’s ankle is just fine
Haliburton avoided missing any time at all after the injury scare the previous night. The team repeatedly asked him over and over to make sure he was comfortable with playing tonight after they found no red flags to be concerned about with the ankle. Haliburton didn’t want to take the night off.
“In an NBA world where it’s pretty cool these days to sit out games, he did not want to hear about sitting out tonight,” Carlisle said after the game. “… He insisted on playing … All of his testing stuff was that both legs and ankles were identical. There were no red flags about him playing, but on the second night of a back-to-back, a lot of players in this league would have readily taken it off. He did not. It’s another indicator of the culture we’re building. It’s not just the staff that’s preaching it. It’s the best players. It’s a very positive thing for us.”
Based on his play, you’d never guess that he was down the previous night in clear pain, yelling expletives, and then limping to the locker room. Haliburton scored 22 points, dished out 14 assists, and had numerous big plays on defense with 3 blocks and 2 steals. There was no doubt that he was feeling just fine from the start of the game where he scored or assisted on 11 straight points for the team to get the Pacers going after starting down 10-1. By the time Haliburton hit a half-court buzzer beater at the end of the first half, he had already erased any concerns anyone may have had.
He had 10 of his 14 assists in the second half including 7 during the key run of the game where the Pacers went from down 63-70 to up 87-77 in the third quarter. Haliburton just dominated during this stretch by consistently finding holes in the defense inside or moving it to open shooters at the right time to transition trailers like when he found Nesmith for his 4th triple, a classic drive and kick like the plays he found Myles Turner and Jalen Smith, or just simply trusting his teammates like when he passed up a pull-up 2 for a Buddy Hield 3. He scored or assisted on all but 3 points in this Pacers run. The highlight of them all probably his perfectly placed alley oop to Bennedict Mathurin.
Haliburton walked into the building in this one like his detective character was going undercover with the mafia. No short film script this time but maybe Detective Tyrese II comes out soon. In the meantime, enjoy this bad photoshop.
3. Terry Taylor, small-ball 5, returns in all its glory
Also happening amidst the Pacers big 3rd quarter run was this situation. Bol Bol was making play after play and giving the Pacers defense problems, the Magic have height and length all over the floor even without Paolo Banchero, and the Pacers down three with 5:22 left in the third quarter had consistently been battling back to being within one possession but never quite getting over that hump like they were Shadow trying to climb out of that mud pit at the end of Homeward Bound just without the tears pouring out of my eyes.
The solution to the Magic’s gargantuan length? Terry Taylor, 6’5” center. After Taylor entered the game, the Pacers went on a 16-3 run to get their first lead of the game and push it all the way to 10 points before the Magic started a comeback of their own. The only points not assisted by Haliburton in that stretch mentioned in the previous section? A classic Taylor offensive rebound and putback and-1. In his 5 minutes, the Pacers were +8 and went from down 3 to up 5 at the end of the third quarter. It came at the expense of Isaiah Jackson minutes but with Oshae Brissett as the tallest player on the floor for the Pacers, but Carlisle’s move to go super small worked. It was good to see him and Brissett contribute to a positive stretch when Taylor–and Brissett until recently–have struggled to find consistent playing time.
4. 20 and 10 starting to feel like a normal game for Myles Turner
Myles Turner continued his hot play with 20 points (8 of 13), 11 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block. It was Turner’s fifth double double in the last six games and the first game of the year where he didn’t have more than one block. The Pacers are now 7-0 when Myles Turner plays at least 26 minutes and 7-3 overall in his 10 games. 6-0 in he makes a 3-pointer. The games that the Pacers have lost since Turner returned his ankle sprain: his first game of the season where he played 24 minutes against the Bulls and struggled to find his rhythm, the post Woj Pod game against the Nets that may have been the worst game in his career, and the loss against the Nuggets were Turner sat out almost all of the third quarter with foul trouble.
In November over seven games, he’s averaged 20.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocks with shooting splits of 62.3/47.4/82.6. This is the Myles Turner that fans have been hoping to see since those bright flashes in his rookie season. Caitlin Cooper with some key statistics in his improvement to begin the year:
The Pacers two-most used lineups this season are now the starting lineups of Haliburton, Turner, Hield, Smith, and one of Nembhard or Nesmith. It’s still a very small sample size but the net ratings of those groups are +15 over 80 minutes with Nembhard and +25.9 over 37 minutes with Nesmith. No one has benefited from playing with Haliburton more than Turner and that’ll likely be especially true once he gets paid this summer. He’s getting passes inside that he could only dream about over his first seven seasons with the team. It’s one thing to finally have consistent trust from his teammates and them having the ability to get him the ball in the right spots but he’s also taking major advantage of those opportunities he’s getting by finishing over mismatches, drawing fouls inside, and going up with force and dunking it when he can.
This November has been Turner’s version of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy where you see all the lessons he’s learned over the years and putting it all together to masterful effect. His driving against closeouts and spacing the floor appropriately when needed that became a skill while playing on the perimeter the past two seasons like West’s use of autotune in Runaway and Lost in the World that never happens without 808s and Heartbreak. His quick, no-time wasted, catch and put it up over the mismatch that was reminiscent of his rookie quick turnaround days in the post like Devil in a New Dress emitting that classic soul sample vibes of the early Kanye days. His blocks at the rim that lead to transition opportunities the Kanye at his best with Power and All of the Lights. 89.7% of Turner’s buckets have been assisted this year like the producers and featured artist that helped elevate West to new heights in this album.
There’s a lot of games left in this season for Turner to prove he can both stay healthy and be this good consistently. There’s still the cloud of Turner’s free agency this summer hanging over this fantastic stretch that make it unclear how long he will remain in Indiana, but it has been very satisfying to see Turner do all the things that many have been waiting, hoping, craving to see from him for a long time.
- The Magic’s Bol Bol and Franz Wagner were super impressive. Wagner, who finished with 29 points, hit a couple of step-back threes late that as ridiculous as it sounds reminded me of LeBron’s overtime performance in the Fieldhouse last season where he just hit three after three to finish the Pacers off. Wagner hit one over Turner that had him shaking his head in disbelief. Magic already got their thinner version of Wemby with Bol, no need for them to win the lottery yet again.
- Jalen Smith struggled with his 3-point shot (1 for 6) but he made some really nice cuts to the basket in this one and finished a couple post-ups inside to get to 14 points.
- If you look at the team stats for this one they are nearly identical in many categories (all shooting percentages, field goal attempts, blocks, fouls, largest lead), but the one that decided it all: rebounding. The Pacers won the battle of the boards 42-41, the difference maker that Nesmith game-winning offensive rebound.