The Indiana Pacers got back on track after a rough road trip, closing out the Washington Wizards late to start their four-game homestand. The Pacers had trouble separating themselves from the Wizards all night despite jumping out to a 9-0 lead, but would slowly pull away in the fourth for the win.
That 9-0 lead didn’t go nearly as far as the Pacers would’ve hoped, quickly allowing the Wizards back into the game, giving them a lead halfway through the quarter on a trio of threes. Washington would finish the first up two, an 11-point turnaround, turning a fast start into a predictably poor first quarter showing.
The comeback, in addition to being a friendly showing for the Wizards’ shooters, was also helped along by Indiana’s defensive assignments, pitting Buddy Hield against Kristaps Porzingis. Unsurprisingly, Porzingis feasted, keeping the Wizards in the game as Indiana’s three point shot began waking up, helped along by a pair from Oshae Brissett early in the quarter to return Indiana to the lead.
Indiana closed the first half on a strong note, using a 9-2 run to take a 69-65 lead. Defense proved optional at this portion of the game in particular, with Indiana shooting 76.5% from the field and Washington barely trailing at 68% shooting. The Wizards carried that over to the start of the third, opening the half on a 14-1 run to go up by six.
Andrew Nembhard couldn’t have timed his only three any better than to follow, cutting the deficit to three and kickstarting an 8-0 Pacers run that returned them to the lead. Indiana wouldn’t relinquish the lead from that point, but would struggle to put any distance between them and Washington as the game began to grind to a halt.
Aaron Nesmith opened the third with his third three of the game to push Indiana’s lead, promptly cut back down to three by the Wizards, but Corey Kispert’s shot to make it 98-95 Pacers was the last field goal they’d make for over seven minutes, forcing them to score at the line. They’d do that, but the Pacers had a bit more diversity in their scoring portfolio, inching the lead higher and higher throughout the fourth, going back up by nine on a 6-0 run.
Kyle Kuzma cut the lead to seven on that first field goal in seven minutes, but Myles Turner drilled the dagger on the following possession with a three pointer, the knife then twisted by Tyrese Haliburton on his own three to close out the victory for the Pacers.
Though Hield was granted a difficult matchup against Porzingis, he managed to neutralize any scoring advantage that gave Washington, scoring a season best 28 points on 12-19 shooting, hitting four from deep with four assists and three steals. Hield was as comfortable as can be on offense, scoring 13 unassisted, either by step back or driving at the rim.
Buddy Hield balled out tonight.— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 10, 2022
28 PTS (season-high)
3 STL pic.twitter.com/Rs7N82k9q9
It proved another stellar showing for Haliburton as well, notching another double double of 23 points and 11 assists. He did so on 9-14 shooting and 3-4 from deep, connecting on a pair of late game triples. Seven of those assists were on three point shots, setting up guys well, but also highlighting a solid night shooting as Indiana finished 18-41, their second straight game above 40% as a team.
Off the bench, Nesmith and Brissett led the way in knocking down triples, hitting three each and combining for 6-10. That proved a huge boost, especially with Brissett’s energy in the second quarter, scoring nine straight to return Indiana to the lead after they had fallen on hard times in the first quarter.
That opened things up a bit for Bennedict Mathurin, scoring 18 points with eight rebounds on 8-15 shooting. A majority of those misses came at the three point arc and he did lead the team in turnovers in a really clean game for the Pacers (11 total), but it was easily his most effective game thus far in December.
Turner rounded out the five double figure scorers with 14 points and six rebounds, leading the way with three offensive boards (joined by Brissett and Mathurin). The Pacers lost the battle in second chance points (15-14), but Turner picked up two big points late in the fourth as Indiana pulled away before stepping into the game-sealer later on.
It proved a tough go tonight for not only Nembhard, but Jalen Smith. The duo combined for three points on 1-10 shooting with Nembhard fouling out. Smith blanked from the field, scoring three at the line, having an especially tough miss in seeing a layup go all the way down before popping out. Smith did provide some nice play in the third quarter, however, forcing jump balls and pulling in four of his six rebounds.
The Pacers will have a quick turnaround after tonight’s win, hosting the Brooklyn Nets for the end of their season series tomorrow. The Pacers are currently 2-1 against a Brooklyn team still trying to find their way, but will face possibly the best version of the Nets, improving to 6-1 tonight since their last game against Indiana.
Former Pacer T.J. Warren has returned to action, scoring 14 points in a win against Atlanta tonight. Fans will no doubt hope to see Warren tomorrow night, but even if he is held out on a back-to-back, it’s great to see him finally take the floor once again.