Two of the prevailing issues in the Indiana Pacers’ two one-point losses to start the season has been in their defensive struggles and their lack of bench production. So for both to come up big tonight was a huge boost in lifting them to a home opener win over the Miami Heat.
In their first two games, the Pacers had allowed 30+ points in six of eight of quarters and amassed a total of 32 bench points, with no one scoring in double figures. Tonight, however, Miami never scored above 24 in a quarter and the bench poured in 37, including double figure nights from Oshae Brissett and Jeremy Lamb.
It was a big reversal for the Pacers who still had to contend with an atrocious third quarter, big shots late from the likes of Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, and even a second straight overtime period. Even with that, the Pacers finally pulled through, picking up their first win of the year in dramatic fashion.
Indiana was on-point in the first half, scoring 56 points and topping the Heat by 10 at the break, but it was the third quarter where things went awry. The Pacers shot just 4-17 from the field, including 0-6 from three, finishing with (what we can only hope is going to be) a season low of just eight points.
The difference tonight from their first two outings came on the defensive end. Despite scoring just eight in the quarter, the Pacers never relinquished their 10-point halftime lead, leading 64-63 heading into the fourth. They allowed just 17 points to the Heat, who were never able to find much of a rhythm on the offensive end throughout the night.
More impressively is that the defense stepped up in the absence of Myles Turner, who was limited to just 16 minutes with foul trouble, including three minutes the entire second half. Domantas Sabonis stepped up with one of his best defensive nights maybe ever, standing tall and even forcing turnovers with four steals.
The spark really seemed to come from Brissett, however, who came through after a rough stretch last night, scoring 18 points on 7-11 shooting with nine rebounds. Brissett hit three of his six three point attempts and was just everywhere you wanna be. The performance from Brissett helped alleviate a lot of tired shooting from Indiana’s starters, with Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Chris Duarte combining for 19-57 shooting.
In the fourth, the Heat finally broke through, going up by as many as six with 7:42 remaining, a Max Strus three coming as a response to a much needed T.J. McConnell basket. With the game potentially on the brink, Brogdon dropped his defense, put in a step back jumper. McConnell stole the inbounds, finding Brogdon, who attacked for a layup and-one to cut the game to one.
After Miami pushed the lead back out to five, the Pacers got back-to-back threes from Justin Holiday and Duarte to take the lead. That lead wouldn’t last for long with Herro scoring and then hitting three following another Brogdon and-one to put the Heat up one. On the ensuing possession, Brogdon found Brissett in the corner for a clutch three.
Brissett would extend the lead to three with a 1-3 trip to the free throw line with 1:32 left, only to have Herro tie it up with a minute remaining. Defensive stands on both ends, including a Brogdon block on Jimmy Butler, sent the game into overtime, knotted at 86-86. After trading their opening buckets, the Pacers locked in defensively, holding Miami scoreless for nearly three minutes, giving them enough time to push their lead to nine, and eventually the 102-91 victory.
It was an ugly game on the offensive end with both teams shooting under 40% for the game. The only two players to shoot over 50% for either team came from Brissett and Lamb, who punched in a trio of first quarter threes en route to 12 points on 4-6 shooting.
Among the starters, Duarte led the way with 19, getting there on 6-21 shooting. Duarte’s shot was off all night, but he did line up for a perfect 5-5 from the line in overtime to help ice the win, and was a key part on the defensive end in holding Butler to 19 points on an equally inefficient 7-22, including this first quarter turnover that led to a Lamb three.
The Pacers forced 22 turnovers on the Heat tonight, leading to 17 points off turnovers. While they actually lost that battle 18-17, it was a big improvement after scoring just 18 total in the first two games. They also got themselves some easy points in transition, scoring 18 fast break points, another huge boost after two lackluster openers.
Sabonis led the way with four steals as part of his 17 point, 12 rebound double double. Brogdon also completed a double double with 18 points and 14 rebounds. He and Sabonis each had just four assists each, as the Pacers were forced to manufacture a lot of points with only 18 assists on the night.
It proved to be an exciting win for the Pacers, who needed a boost following their first two one-point losses. The win improves them to 1-2, setting up a home matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.