It was another impressive showing for the Indiana Pacers, picking up their second straight win in a victory over the Brooklyn Nets. Surprisingly, those words are true. Also true is that the Pacers got there by making a franchise record 23 three pointers, led by big nights from Bennedict Mathurin and Tyrese Haliburton, but that last part is believable.
The Pacers shot 50% from deep for the second straight game, taking full advantage of Brooklyn’s 29th ranked defense, if not on the first shot, then maybe on the second or third. Indiana had 17 offensive rebounds, leading to 14 second chance points and outran the Nets 19-9 in transition for good measure.
While Indiana took it to Brooklyn’s defense late, it was their defense that had some big issues early as the Nets jumped out to a 22-13 lead following multiple wide open looks at the basket. Mathurin came to life, scoring or assisting on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to two, eventually tying the game at 26-26 in the closing seconds of the first quarter.
The Nets seemed to have the answer coming into the second, with Patty Mills and Yuta Watanabe scoring 10 straight to make it a double figure game as the Pacers offense languished, missing their first eight shots of the quarter. Buddy Hield would take the cap off the basket, hitting the first of what would be eight threes from the Pacers in the quarter to start climbing back into the game.
With Mathurin and Haliburton hitting their own shots, Hield would give Indiana their first lead at 52-51 as part of a 12-0 run that resulted in the Pacers leading by seven with two minutes left in the half. The Nets had their own answer from deep with Joe Harris and Royce O’Neale connecting, using an 11-3 run to regain the lead. Haliburton would slice his way to the basket to put the Pacers on top 63-62 at the break.
The third quarter would be a wild one as the two teams traded haymakers, swapping the lead 10 times in the first five minutes and change. It was everything the Pacers could do to keep pace as Kevin Durant began to heat up following a four-point first half, but they finally found some separation midway through the quarter, scoring seven straight to push their lead to seven.
Chris Duarte hit his first shot of the game to extend the lead to eight, but that would be the final basket of the quarter for Indiana, holding onto the lead ever so slightly heading into the fourth 92-90. Without Myles Turner and Aaron Nesmith, the Pacers had to dig deep into their rotation, getting minutes for former Net James Johnson, who scored all five of his points in the fourth, opening with a big dunk.
Duarte meanwhile would hit another three, shaking off his first half struggles as Johnson and Andrew Nembhard extend the lead out to double figures on threes of their own. The Pacers led by seven when Duarte capped his nine point night with a deep three that again made it a 10-point game.
Chris Duarte nails a DEEP three!— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 30, 2022
that’s a team record 22 threes in a game. pic.twitter.com/F5ENObUenl
The shots would stop falling, but the effort would remain a driving force, an offensive board off of a Mathurin drive leading to three points and three rebounds on one possession set up Mathurin for a game sealing trip to the free throw line, the Pacers now leading by 15. The Nets would remain at arms’ length thanks to the play of Mathurin and Isaiah Jackson, connecting on a big time dagger dunk from Mathurin to finish off the 125-116 victory.
Mathurin led the way for the Pacers with a career best 32 points, the first 30-point outing for a Pacer this season and the first for a rookie as well. It was a big bounceback for Mathurin, who had averaged 14.3 points on 34% shooting in his first three road games, including 2-14 from three. He blew the doors off of those games tonight, shooting 6-9 from three and getting involved from the jump, either hitting a three or getting to the line, for 10 attempts.
Mathurin would shoot 10-10 on the night from the line, his best showing of the year, jumping his season average to 87.8%. He’s shot 34-36 in his last six games. While his overall play has been so far ahead of where he was expected to be as a rookie, it’s his composure at the free throw line that has been one of his most impressive feats, currently 12th in the league in attempts and 30th in percentage.
Haliburton meanwhile has shown his own early season improvements at the line, shooting 94.3% after a 6-6 night. The duo has shot 48% of Indiana’s free throws on the season and are a big part of why the Pacers are currently 10th in free throw attempts and 6th in percentage, up from 19th last year in both categories.
Making free throws wasn’t all Haliburton did tonight, leading the starters with 26 points and eight assists (dishing his 1000th career assist to Mathurin) and three steals. He was 6-10 from deep, putting in some absolutely ice cold pull-ups throughout the game.
Hield, surprisingly, would wind up being the third man in the three point game, shooting 5-11 and falling just shy of a triple double with nine rebounds and eight assists, scoring 17. For all the success Indiana had, it was largely done through those three players, 17 makes between them. Only Duarte, hitting three in the second half, had more than one, though that’s not to take away from Johnson, Nembhard, or Jalen Smith in their contributions.
Smith would score just eight on the night, but would be a key force on the glass, pulling in a game high 14, including seven on the offensive end as Indiana decimated the Nets 53-34 off of misses. He wasn’t alone, however, with Jackson pulling in 10, completing an 18 & 10 double double.
Jackson’s success was a welcome sight after struggling so much this road trip and even early tonight, whiffing some wide open shots at the rim as the Pacers searched for answers at the big spot (Goga Bitadze scored five tonight off the bench, losing a rebound to Watanabe, who just happened to put it in on his own basket). Jackson managed to settle into the game in part thanks to his passing game, finishing with four assists, proving increasingly crafty as a passer early in the season.
The Pacers, now somehow 3-4, can secure a winning road trip with a win on Monday, which will be against this same Nets team. It’s impossible to expect the Nets to come out with the same lack of energy they had tonight, but between hosting a player meeting and getting a troubling post-game outburst from Kyrie Irving, it’s hard to know where the Nets will sit tomorrow, much less two days from now.