For just the eighth time this season, two NBA teams have played in a game where neither side reached 100. Such contests can often be a showcase for elite teams, but sometimes the reason for the low score turns out to just be bad basketball. Without overtly stating that was the case for tonight’s game, it’s worth pointing out the Indiana Pacers did defeat the Houston Rockets despite scoring just 10 points in the first quarter.
The Pacers needed four points from Bennedict Mathurin in the final minute of the first to even reach that low bar, but despite how bad it was (4-22 shooting, 0-7 from three, seven turnovers), they only trailed by 15 at the end of it. That lead would swell to 20 start the second quarter, but as Oshae Brissett said afterwards, “We’ve been down worse to a lot better teams,” and it would unfold that way as the game progressed.
Eric Gordon proved the catalyst for Houston’s success in the early going, scoring 19 first half points, which may or may not have contributed to Rick Carlisle forcibly getting himself kicked out of the game late in the second quarter in an effort to rally the team. The Pacers had cut the lead in half by that point, but did find success after Carlisle’s ejection, closing the half on a 10-4 run.
It wound up being Indiana’s best quarter of the night, connecting on six threes for 35 points, their only period above 50% shooting. That shooting percentage would plummet once again in the third as the Rockets extended their lead back out to 10. Somehow, someway, the Pacers crawled their way back into it, tying it it up on a 12-2 run. Brissett would eventually get the Pacers their first second half lead, banking in a triple late in the third.
Brissett hit his fourth three to open the fourth quarter, but that wasn’t enough to put Houston away as they would quickly regain the lead. Tyrese Haliburton was among many Pacers who struggled with their shot tonight, but with Houston leading by one, Haliburton took control, scoring the next eight to put them up 82-75.
Needing to nurse that advantage down the stretch, Indiana leaned in on Myles Turner’s defense. He delivered in a big way, blocking all four of his shots in the fourth. A key sequence midway through the quarter saw Turner fly in for an impressive rebound, get fed the ball late for a buzzer-beating turnaround jumper, and blocking Tari Eason on the other end.
Turner helped hold the Rockets to just 3-10 shooting in the paint in the fourth, but even with that success, Houston managed to draw enough fouls to keep the game within reach. Kenyon Martin Jr. got a big dunk with about two minutes left to cut the lead to five, but even with back-to-back misses from Buddy Hield, Houston was never able to capitalize.
Haliburton closed out the game on a strong driving layup against Usman Garuba with 37 seconds left, but turned his ankle on his way down. The immediate reaction was concerning. Haliburton remained on the floor in visible pain, but would eventually be able to walk to the locker room with help.
In a game that was already a complete mess, getting terrible injury news from your star player is the last thing anyone should want, but Haliburton minimized concern after the game with Dustin Dopirak, citing it as an aggravation of an ankle injury he suffered against Toronto. Dopirak also noted that Haliburton seemed to be walking fine in the locker room.
Tyrese Haliburton talking with @DustinDopirak about his ankle injury and the @Pacers comeback. Looked like he also tweaked a shoulder in the third quarter, but he said that is nothing to worry about. pic.twitter.com/MtbbXLKzo1— Jeremiah Johnson (@PacersJJ) November 19, 2022
Though it’s a bit early to speculate on Haliburton’s availability for tomorrow night’s game against Orlando, it’s encouraging that there doesn’t appear to be anything more serious at the moment, allowing a more worry-free assessment of Haliburton’s night overall in the 99-91 win, leading the Pacers with 19 points and eight assists.
It was a night to forget for not only his shooting, but team’s shooting as a whole, however. He shot just 2-9 from deep and the Pacers were 12-41 overall, their second worst outing of the year. Buddy Hield took on the brunt of misses, going 3-13 from deep for 10 points. Even Mathurin struggled at 4-14 overall and 1-5 from deep, but he still worked his way to the line for eight attempts, finishing with 15.
Brissett led the way with a 4-6 game from three, totaling a season best 14. He did note in the postgame that he came up with zero rebounds, swearing it would be the last time he did that. The rebounding success went to Jalen Smith tonight, however, pulling in 18 boards with three blocks to go with a 10-point night. In a game as chaotic as this one, Smith’s ability to pull in rebounds was key, especially with the Rockets pulling in 14 offensive boards on the night.
It was another impressive performance for Turner, who closed out with 17 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks. Though his double double streak has come to an end, Turner was no less a force, especially with four fourth quarter rebounds to lead the way down the stretch.
Indiana has now won three straight and improves to 8-6 and 4-3 on the road. They’ll be back in action Saturday night for the first of two home games against the Orlando Magic, attempting to do something they haven’t done since February of 2020: win four straight games.