The Pacers unlikely back-to-back wins over the Lakers and Warriors provided some of the more enjoyable moments of the season. In particular, the win at Golden State with make-shift lineups playing all night in combinations that could only have played together as scout teams in practice.
It was simply a fun game to watch, but not until Steph Curry missed an open three late in overtime did I ever think the Pacers would hold on to win. Sorry, but that’s just not what they do this season. But when Jeremy Lamb put the Pacers up four with 2.8 seconds remaining, eliminating the option of a Steph miracle three, the Pacer had done it. They won back-to-back games, beating the Warriors with 10 guys who had far more belief in their chance than I. As Isaiah Jackson said after the game, they’re all ballers and they balled out indeed.
Man, that was fun. Here are some fun observations from with elements that all had to come together to get it done in the Bay:
- Among the improbable factors that favored the Pacers was the fact they won the three-point shot battle with Golden State (take a sec and read that again). The Pacers remain in the bottom five for their three-point shooting accuracy, but caught fire with their make-shift lineup to make 15 of 35 threes including the game-tying trey by Justin Holiday near the end of regulation and then the stunner from Keifer Sykes in OT that put belief in swiping the W on the table. The Warriors were just 9 of 42 from behind the arc.
- Stephen Curry MISSED 10 threes, but still hit the Pacers for 39 points, making 6 of 16 deep ones. But Curry’s open miss to tie the game, after an offensive rebound which was actually the fourth consecutive missed three by the Dubs, with about 15 seconds remaining made it clear that the Basketball gods were not going to betray the insane effort the Pacers had put into earning this win.
- With the top six players in their rotation sidelined, the Pacers reserves stepped into their lead role in impressive fashion. The were connected out of desperation and played so hard without hesitation since they had nothing to lose and no concern with minutes. It actually exposed how disconnected the regular starters have been so often this year which leads to a juice-less effort. Early Friday morning (Indy time ) this group had plenty of juice on the back-to-back to complete the sweep. Fun? Yes, this was fun to watch.
- The Pacers also broke what seems like a 50-year streak of throwing up a poor effort and getting boat raced on national TV. The TNT broadcast went from calling the early effort from the Pacers “plucky” to heaping praise on the Pacers and the young talent that was performing so well. The national broadcast was part of the winning equation according to Rick Carlisle. Normal timeouts are 2 minutes, 15 seconds but for national TV games the timeouts are 3 minutes, 15 seconds. Big deal, a minute, right? But playing on a back-to-back and extending the effort the Pacers had to, Carlisle felt that any extra rest under those circumstances was a big help.
- So many fun player contributions, but none bigger than Chris Duarte who was assertive on both ends of the floor and really had to play the role of go-to-guy for much of his minutes. Duarte finished with 27 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals including a steal and run-out dunk in OT which was part of a four-point run via the rook which put the Pacers back in the game after falling down by 5 points early in OT.
- Goga Bitadze and Isaiah Jackson delivered plenty of production in their combined minutes at the center position. 28 points, 16 rebound, 3 steals and a block to be precise on the production. Goga was lured into defending his manhood after Gary Payton II dunked and stared him down. I appreciate the FU mentality Goga showed, not backing down, but the mini-head butt which led to his ejection wasn’t smart. Fortunately, IJax was ready to step in and step up. The 19-year-old rook had some highlight lob finishes and again, several missed opportunities when guards didn’t deliver a pass. These guys weren’t faultless, but they played their role quite well. IJax spent plenty of time on the floor, exposing the lower body strength he needs to develop to handling the physical play around the rim. But, whew, can he get up and down the floor and off the ground in a hurry.
- Keifer Sykes didn’t play a perfect game either but he made a big impact on the win. He was often targeted on defense but didn’t back down and when it was winning time in OT, Sykes delivered a 5 point run, including a nice deep three that put the Dubs on their heels the rest of the way.
So, yeah, these are a few of the fun observations from the late show the Pacer put on at Golden State and I didn’t even mention Justin Holiday’s monster three-ball to send the game into overtime.
What else stood out from the impressive road win? Let me know in the comments.