The frustrations of the first two games boiled over in a big way for the Indiana Pacers tonight, taking it to the Detroit Pistons for their first win of the season. The Pacers played with a fire and a passion tonight, overcoming another slow start to outscore Detroit 63-44 in the second and third quarters, holding on late.
In looking for answers for their slow starts and defensive woes, Rick Carlisle shook up the starting lineup tonight, swapping Terry Taylor for Isaiah Jackson and Chris Duarte for Aaron Nesmith. The moves didn’t offer much of a benefit when looking at the scoreboard however, as the Pistons drilled five of their first seven three point attempts, taking a 24-10 lead midway through the first.
A mini run to follow didn’t do much but keep the Pacers treading water, closing out the quarter down 35-25, which was somehow still less points than they allowed in each of their first two games. They continued to sputter early in the second, blanking on their first 12 three point attempts as Detroit inched their lead back up to 13 at 40-27.
Water finally found its level on the next three possessions, all three pointers for the Pacers, quickly closing the gap to four. Duarte, Goga Bitadze, and Andrew Nembhard all connected on their shots for the 9-0 run while the Indiana defense was doing something unique: getting stops.
9-0 run. @C_Duarte5 x Goga x @AndrewNembhard pic.twitter.com/UmP4vgfs3F— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 22, 2022
Though the shots didn’t continue to rain in, the blocks did pile up. The Pacers had eight rejections in the second quarter, bringing their first half total up to 11. In the midst of this block party, Indiana took their first lead of the season, a three pointer from Bennedict Mathurin that put Indiana on top 42-41 for exactly 12 seconds. They wouldn’t regain the lead the rest of the half, but their ability to hold on defensively did allow them to stay within striking distance, trailing 56-52 at the break.
The rookie connection between Mathurin & Nembhard is must-see .— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) October 23, 2022
TV: Bally Sports Indiana
Stream: https://t.co/D0C5GE91d1 pic.twitter.com/lzfIKJDaju
Out of the half, Indiana took control, scoring the first eight points of the third and never looking back, even as Jaden Ivey and the Pistons threatened, keeping the Pacers from going up by double figures. Up just four, Mathurin drilled the first of his three three pointers to end the quarter, pushing the lead up to nine to end the quarter.
The mini storylines of the game began to take shape in the fourth. Whether it was Mathurin vs. Ivey, Haliburton vs. Isaiah Stewart, or Goga Bitadze vs. anyone willing to chat with him, the Pacers took the final quarter personal, extending the lead out to double figures and holding off excellent play from Cade Cunningham when Haliburton turned out the lights with back-to-back pull-up threes against Stewart, wrapping up the well-earned 124-115 win.
Imagine trading Tyrese Haliburton. pic.twitter.com/wCbkIZLYny— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) October 23, 2022
Beyond the painfully familiar first quarter, it proved to be a total team effort for the Pacers. One immediate benefit to the lineup change was allowing Smith to shift over into the four spot, setting him up for a career night of 19 points and 15 rebounds, blocking three shots. Indiana sent away 15 shots as a team, 12 from the revamped starting lineup. With so many eyepopping nights, both Jackson and Nesmith were a bit understated, but played key roles, combining for eight of those blocks (five from Jackson) and 15 points.
.@thejalen_smith erased it. pic.twitter.com/YNJRCCxQoW— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 23, 2022
The shift in roles didn’t pop the boxscore for either Duarte or Taylor either, but while Taylor went scoreless, he did pull in two rebounds and two assists with a block. It was also by far the most comfortable Duarte has looked despite just 3-14 shooting and 1-7 from three and another shot to the face, taking out his frustrations with a monster jam in the third quarter.
While his run was limited tonight, Nembhard made the most of his minutes, scoring eight points with three assists and 2-3 from deep during the second quarter comeback. The youth movement appeared to be in full effect tonight, with both T.J. McConnell and Buddy Hield getting limited run, McConnell highlighting a patented inbounds steal while Hield put in a pair of threes with a block.
For the second straight night, Haliburton had to kind of get out of his own way before finding himself in the game. Another poor first half shooting (2-10, 0-2 from three) was buoyed with an impressive 6-6 half from the line, but he came alive once again in the fourth quarter, making all four of his shots, including the two daggers against Stewart, finishing with 24 points and 10 assists, picking up five steals along the way.
The game started to shift once the second unit entered the game. In addition to Nembhard’s play, the Pacers got a massive boost from both Bitadze and Mathurin. Bitadze had an outstanding performance, finishing with 14 points, 15 rebounds, and four assists, eight of those coming on the offensive end, including an impressive and one rebounding the ball on the left side and finishing on the right all suspended in midair.
Bitadze cleans up the mess with an and-1!— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) October 22, 2022
TV: Bally Sports Indiana
Stream: https://t.co/D0C5GE91d1 pic.twitter.com/IxoQ9VzkMc
Bitadze capped his night with an outstretched alley-oop courtesy of Mathurin, who himself topped his own best with a draft pick revenge game against Ivey.
let 'em hear ya goga. ️ pic.twitter.com/vbF6a6hvS1— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 23, 2022
Ivey, taken one spot ahead of Mathurin, heard it throughout the night and while the Purdue product had an impressive night of 17 points and 11 rebounds, Mathurin wrapped up his night with 27 on 10-18 shooting, including 5-8 from three. Mathurin’s three triples at the end of the third really set the game apart for Indiana, including a lights out triple with Saadiq Bey challenging him.
Mathurin is on ! The rookie just hit his fourth 3️⃣ of the game and leads scorers with 2️⃣0️⃣ points.— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) October 23, 2022
TV: Bally Sports Indiana
Stream: https://t.co/D0C5GE91d1 pic.twitter.com/9zeCmhjFAx
Though wins and losses aren’t exactly going to be the goal of the season, it was still imperative that they come away with at least one win in front of the home crowd before heading out on the road for five very tough games to avoid some unwelcome desperation from creeping in, as will be the case against their first opponent. The week long road trip will tip off Monday against the Philadelphia 76ers who fell to 0-3 in disappointing fashion earlier this evening.