The good times continue to roll for the Indiana Pacers, picking up their fourth win in five games with another big night from three point range, beating the New Orleans Pelicans at home. Just over a week after they set a franchise record in threes, the Pacers came up one short of tying that mark tonight, connecting on 22 of their 48 attempts.
Buddy Hield connected on the first three of the night about a minute into the game as the Pacers stormed out to a 9-0 lead capped by Myles Turner’s 999th career block. Indiana’s shooting would briefly inch the lead up to double figures midway through the first, but New Orleans had their own success shooting the ball, quickly cutting the lead to a single possession.
Indiana held onto their lead by the end of the quarter as the two teams combined for 13 three pointers. Suffering from some bench struggles tonight, they did fall behind early in the second, however, eventually allowing the Pelicans a 51-47 lead heading into the final stages of the half.
With New Orleans surging and Indiana struggling with ball control, it looked as if the Pacers might finally dig themselves a hole heading into the break, but Turner worked his way to the line for two points and Tyrese Haliburton hit the first of three Pacers threes to end the half, flipping the game back in their favor, leading by three at halftime.
A wild sequence of errant rebounding and loose balls set up Jalen Smith for a three out of the half as the Pacers began to pile on in the third, connecting on 9-16 from deep to extend the lead out to double figures. It was an electrifying quarter of play from the Pacers, led by Haliburton and Turner, scoring 22 combined points with six made threes. Haliburton was dealing, dishing four assists, getting a tentative Bennedict Mathurin involved, and punching in some deep looks in transition.
Turner meanwhile recorded his 1000th career block later in the quarter against Zion Williamson, his second of the night.
To open the fourth quarter, the Pacers extended their lead to 18 early on on a corner look from Smith, but the Pelicans still had a push in them, cutting the lead to 10 with 4:35 remaining. Though Indiana had a response in the form of Hield’s fifth three, Brandon Ingram in particular was keeping New Orleans’s chances within reach, connecting on his third three with 1:12 remaining to make it a seven point game.
On the following possession, Haliburton drove the lane, finding a wide open Mathurin in the corner. Mathurin hesitated, whipping the ball around to Andrew Nembhard, sinking the wide open three to sink the dagger for Indiana’s third straight home victory.
It was that kind of night for the Pacers, completing their second 50/40/90 night of the season, matching their total for the last two seasons combined, as this team grows into the most improbable and enjoyable team the city has seen in five years. Part of that is due to the play of Turner, Indiana’s only remaining player from that 2017-18 team, which coincidentally or not, is the last time he manned the five spot on his own.
Turner finished tonight with one of his best performances, scoring 37 points on 11-18 shooting, 4-7 from three, and a perfect 11-11 from the line, picking up a double double with 12 rebounds, and becoming the fourth Pacer to record 1000 blocks with three, and doing so at home.
Turner was helped out in a big way by Haliburton tonight, connecting on four of the point guard’s 13 assists, not only from three, but in decisive, positive play at the rim. Haliburton was well covered in the first half, but made his mark as a playmaker with six first half assists. Haliburton came alive in the third, scoring 12 on 4-5 shooting from three, finishing the night with 20, including a career best-tying six threes
Hield also finished up with 20, connecting on five triples himself, while also dishing three assists with two steals and two blocks, the only Pacer other than Turner to swat multiple shots. Smith meanwhile was the third Pacer with a double double, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 3-7 from deep, 2-5 in the corner after blanking in the last two games.
With the unfortunate injury news regarding Chris Duarte, Rick Carlisle elevated Nembhard into the starting lineup. Nembhard didn’t disappoint, finishing with 15 points and an impressive 3-4 from deep after, much like Smith, struggling with consistency in his three point shot.
That decision didn’t quite pay off in the expected way, however, with the bench unit struggling to get going despite some lineup tinkering from Carlisle early. The Pacers actually only went nine deep tonight, with Terry Taylor getting some run in the first half, but the bench could only muster up 13 first half points, just four from Mathurin.
Mathurin was unusually hesitant tonight, finishing 2-8 and 1-6 from three, but his teammates did well to help him out, getting him a career best five assists in the process. Mathurin’s limited success (including 3-3 at the line) was purely based on rhythm; the alley oop and a beautiful transition three, both set up by Haliburton.
That put the bulk of the bench scoring load on T.J. McConnell, who despite still calling his own number to end quarters with no success, he had a solid outing, scoring a season high 10 points on 4-5 shooting, getting to the line for the first time this year, connecting on 2-3 for a Pacers team that shot 21-23 on the night.
The Pacers also had a season high in assists tonight, finishing with 33 on their 43 field goal attempts. All of that ball movement made those three pointers go down a lot easier, which is good considering their struggles with turnovers (17) and allowing 60 points in the paint, a season high, but probably not a particularly surprising one given New Orleans’s proficiency inside with players like Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas.
Improving to 5-5, Indy .500 is back for the first time since February 2021. It’s been surprising to say the least given the combination of expectations and schedule, but it’s a huge step forward from where this team was a year ago, sitting at 3-7 with five losses of five points of fewer.
The Pacers improve to 2-0 in their current four game homestand, but will be in for a couple of tough tests to end it, starting with a matchup against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday before a Saturday matchup against Toronto.