After appearing down and out midway through the fourth, the Indiana Pacers staged an impressive comeback against the New York Knicks, securing their second preseason win on a 25-6 run. They got there with some timely shooting from Andrew Nembhard and Goga Bitadze, climbing back into it and taking charge behind big time play from rookie Bennedict Mathurin.
Mathurin scored all nine of his fourth quarter points after Indiana had given up their first lead of the second half and fallen behind by 10, prompting a timeout from Rick Carlisle. Out of the timeout, Mathurin completed a three point play and drilled a floater to cut the lead in half, setting up Nembhard and Bitadze to each hit two three pointers that pushed Indiana into the lead with two minutes remaining.
New York’s last gasp came with Cam Reddish starting a drive when Mathurin forced the ball loose and broke away for a game sealing windmill dunk.
BENN MATHURIN BREAKS OUT THE WINDMILL pic.twitter.com/1XOdpW3pDf— NBA (@NBA) October 13, 2022
Mathurin would eventually foul out, committing three fouls during the comeback, but he would close out the night with 27 points on 8-13 shooting and 11-12 from the free throw line. While it bears repeating that these are still exhibition games, nothing Mathurin has flashed in these three preseason games has felt particularly unsustainable, especially with how he has shown an ability to attack the basket and get to the line.
While Mathurin will lead the highlights, it’s hard to imagine the Pacers being in the position to make the comeback without the play of Nembhard. With Tyrese Haliburton out with a sore lower back and T.J. McConnell stepping into the starting role, Nembhard was able to shine as the backup point guard.
Not only did Nembhard score the first basket outside of the paint for the Pacers in a tough first quarter showing, the rest of his points would come in the fourth, 13 in all, hitting consecutive threes and finding Bitadze for two of his own to put the Pacers on top for good.
Andrew Nembhard dropped 13 PTS in Q4 to lead the Q4 charge for the @Pacers in their #NBAPreseason win!— NBA (@NBA) October 13, 2022
15 PTS | 4 REB | 9 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK pic.twitter.com/1YSKwsZxnJ
His fourth quarter was a welcome sight after some up and down play throughout the game, turning the ball over five times while dishing nine assists with two steals and two blocks. Bitadze meanwhile had all eight of his points in the fourth as well, drilling both of his threes and blocking two shots in eight minutes of action.
Among the starters, Chris Duarte led the way with 13 points and five rebounds, but also had some turnover issues of his own, committing four miscues. McConnell would score five, dishing six assists, and working hard for a pair of steals while Buddy Hield scored 17 with four rebounds.
Up front, Myles Turner had a much better showing tonight than on Friday, scoring 10 points with seven rebounds and a block. Turner was especially active around the glass, picking up a team high three offensive boards, doing his best Terry Taylor impression to score six points off of those hard fought rebounds.
Jalen Smith finished with nine, exiting the game at halftime after taking a hard spill on an and-one opportunity late in the second quarter.
respect the specs! ️ pic.twitter.com/QY6S43mHOH— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 12, 2022
He still had his struggles against Julius Randle, however, which became especially noticeable when Taylor (and Hield) provided some much needed physicality against New York’s All-Star. To be fair, tonight’s Knicks team also wasn’t nearly the same force Friday night’s team was, but a Turner/Smith front court will be an interesting sell if there are questions regarding physicality.
Aaron Nesmith also missed tonight’s game, moving Oshae Brisett into the regular rotation, where he pulled in eight rebounds, missing all three of his shots (all from three) to finish with two points. Taylor had five points himself, splitting his three point attempts while Isaiah Jackson leapt his way to eight points and a block.
just toss it up, @IJackson22 will do the rest. pic.twitter.com/Es0Lmzju40— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 13, 2022
After being essentially blanked by the Knicks last Friday, it was a nice showing from the Pacers to come alive and steal a win, even in a preseason setting in a second unit duel. Even still, the Pacers had a fair share of issues throughout the night, committing 17 turnovers and missing a ton of threes up until the fourth quarter.
Indiana’s first 20 points of the night came in the paint, which would be more worthy of celebration if it didn’t come at the cost of any sort of competency outside of the paint. They were 0-5 from three in the first quarter before McConnell put them on the board in the second, entering the fourth with just five makes as a team.
The Pacers will have one more home warm up before the start of the regular season next Wednesday, hosting the Houston Rockets on Friday. Whether Carlisle (or Stephen Silas and the Rockets) treats Friday night’s preseason finale as anything more than an afterthought remains to be seen, but it has been surprising how un-preseason this preseason has felt in regards to rotations and minutes, so what’s one more?