If last night’s win against the Lakers wasn’t enough, the Indiana Pacers followed it up tonight with an even better encore, shocking the Golden State Warriors in overtime to complete the back-to-back sweep. The Pacers followed a similar trajectory tonight as they did last night, staging a fourth quarter comeback to close out a win, but did so with completely different personnel.
Domantas Sabonis was initially the only additional player that was going to miss tonight’s game after suffering an ankle sprain late against the Lakers, an injury that will cause him to miss at least “a few games.” That number of unavailable players grew by two when Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert were each downgraded to out after initially being listed as questionable.
That set up a matchup against the Warriors featuring an all-new starting lineup, with Goga Bitadze getting his first start of the year alongside Keifer Sykes, Chris Duarte, Justin Holiday, and Torrey Craig. All hands would need to be on deck at the Chase Center, where Golden State had won seven of their last eight.
The early returns weren’t completely surprising. The Pacers performed about as well as expected, opening with a Bitadze three and just kind of hanging around for a while until Golden State used a 9-2 run to extend their lead out to nine late in the first. To Indiana’s credit, that nine point deficit would prove the game high, but they still struggled to string together stops when they got the game to within striking distance.
The Warriors would again use a late quarter run to extend their lead, this time a 7-0 stretch to give them a hefty 63-55 advantage at the break. Indiana struggled to contend with Golden State’s ability to attack the basket, but did an excellent job forcing misses from deep as the Warriors proved uncharacteristically incapable of putting the ball in the basket from deep.
Indiana came out of the half with a purpose, hitting three threes of their own to take a surprising lead by outscoring the Warriors 13-3 to open the third. The game would swing back and forth throughout the third, Damion Lee giving the Warriors a three point edge at the end of the third. Or so was that idea, until Lee then fouled Jeremy Lamb on a three point shot, allowing him to tie the game at 83-83 heading into the fourth.
A staggering number of deflections and turnovers plagued both teams throughout the game, but the Warriors were never able to parlay those into easy transition points, forever keeping the score within reach for the Pacers despite Golden State’s staunch half court defense.
Gary Payton II would wreak the most havoc in deflections for the Warriors, eventually coming through in slamming a dunk home against Bitadze midway through the fourth to give Golden State a 96-93 advantage. Payton took the opportunity to stare down Bitadze after the dunk, an action Bitadze didn’t take kindly to, aggressively chatting with Payton.
The downside to that was that the officials assessed a double technical, the second of the night for Bitadze, sending him out of the game at a crucial point. Fortunately, Isaiah Jackson was more than capable of stepping into the game, drawing a flagrant foul against Kevin Looney and getting back-to-back steals, all leading to a huge 7-0 run that put Indiana on top 100-96 with 5:34 remaining.
That amount of time felt like an eternity, especially after Stephen Curry quickly cut the lead to one with a three. Sloppiness continued to prevail for the Warriors, however, giving Indiana the opportunity to extend the lead back out to five, highlighted by a Jackson alley oop courtesy of Holiday.
The Warriors refused to go away, however. Juan Toscano-Anderson hit a three and Curry scored again to tie it up with a tremendous finish around the basket. Jackson would split a trip at the free throw line to give Indiana the only points in the game across two full minutes, a precarious 107-106 advantage heading into the final minute.
Curry would work his way to the line to break the drought and a miss by Craig late would leave Indiana scrambling just long enough for the ball to wind up in Curry’s hands again for an intentional foul that put Golden State ahead 110-107 with just under 10 seconds on the clock.
Out of the timeout, the Pacers were able to find Holiday, who pulled up and drilled the game-tying three with five seconds on the clock.
That would be enough to force overtime after Toscano-Anderson missed the game winning layup at the end of regulation. The Warriors would strike first, scoring five straight to open the extra period, but Duarte put Indiana on the board with a tough jumper and then a breakaway dunk that cut the lead to one.
Indiana’s defense held strong against a Warriors team that struggled connecting on threes all night, eventually sending Oshae Brissett to the line to tie the game at 115-115. After forcing another miss from deep, Sykes set himself up for a deep go-ahead three with the shot clock winding down, followed up by an attacking layup to cap a 10-0 Pacers run that put them ahead by five.
The Warriors returned the favor with a quick two from Andrew Wiggins, but despite rebounding well, they missed four straight threes on a single possession, including a wide open Curry look before Sykes finally pulled in the rebound. A costly turnover sent the ball back to Golden State, but Brissett did an excellent job challenging the inbounds to Klay Thompson, forcing the ball out on him via coach’s challenge to give Indiana possession, eventually setting up Lamb to roll in his first of two free throw attempts to a seal the 121-117 victory.
The short-handed Pacers played with no reservations, topping the Warriors in three point shooting of all things to seal off the win. The Pacers were an impressive 15-35 from deep while Golden State shot just 9-42, their third worst outing of the year. Indiana was able to force 21 turnovers as well, scoring 20 off of them, even though the Warriors forced 18 themselves.
Golden State’s half court defense did cause the Pacers a lot of problems at times, which Indiana did a solid job alleviating by succeeding in transition, outscoring the Warriors 16-6 in fast break points. While the Warriors did minimize Indiana’s advantage deep by outscoring them 62-42 in the paint, there wasn’t much separation between the teams beyond that, the sort of advantage that favors the less talented opponent.
Curry finished the night with 39, but received minimal help. He was an...okay 6-16 from deep, but the Warriors tallied just four double figure scorers led by Kevon Looney with 13, the rest of the team going 3-26 from three point range. The Pacers were able to capitalize with seven double figure scorers (and eight from Duane Washington Jr.).
Duarte led the way with 27 points on 10-16 shooting, carrying over his recent success with a big time performance on the road. Though only nine of those points came in the fourth and overtime, each and every make was a huge boost to Indiana’s chance of winning. Though he did struggle at times on the defensive end, he did join Craig and Jackson with three steals each.
Holiday’s game tying triple was his fourth of the night, once again leading the way in three pointers made, but unlike in recent nights, he shot it well and received plenty of support with five other Pacers each hitting a pair from deep. One of those players was Sykes, who had just 10, but it felt like he had closer to 20 with how well he played in the second half after a bit of a rough start to the game, finishing 4-12 overall.
Bitadze had played extremely well tonight, scoring 13 points with nine rebounds and five assists (plus a block), but it was very disappointing to see him find himself in a position to get ejected with the game on the line. Even with the injuries, however, Jackson was able to step in and step up, scoring 15 points, getting to the line eight times, hitting five. His instincts on defense led to two huge forced turnovers after Bitadze’s ejection and he was everywhere on the offensive end, especially in collecting lobs for dunks.
With the rookies taking the spotlight tonight late, it was Indiana’s veterans that helped keep their mistakes from costing them the win. In addition to Holiday, Craig and Lamb each hit a pair of threes, with Craig pulling in seven boards and three steals, eventually hurting his wrist chasing down a loose ball against Curry, though he’d finish the game.
Lamb meanwhile tallied up 14, hitting a pair of key threes while also getting to the line 10 times, hitting eight of his first nine to ice the win in Indiana’s favor. Lamb also had two steals and a block.
Indiana has somehow come through the other side of their nightmarish start, at least for two games, to again pick up a comeback win after trailing by halftime, their second of the year. This is also just their second win in a game decided by four points or less. Somehow, Indiana found a way to claw out these two wins, giving them a 2-1 record in their West Coast trip with two to go.
The Pacers will head south from here to face the Phoenix Suns on Saturday. Indiana’s wins against the Lakers and Warriors are impressive, but to be fair, neither team is playing their best ball at the moment. Phoenix just might be though, setting up an interesting test for this suddenly fun(?) Pacers team.