After the Philadelphia 76ers blew what appeared to be a surefire win, the Indiana Pacers graciously returned the favor with their own miscues, setting up the first overtime game of the year for Indiana. That five-minute period was one of the strangest for the Pacers, looking towards isolation over ball movement and unable to find enough success in doing so in a late loss.
The overtime period existed on its own plane, but getting there felt nearly as surreal given how out of reach things felt at times in the second half. One thing the Pacers did throughout the night though was stay within striking distance. It may have felt like they were down 25, more frustrated than productive, but at their worst, they were never down by more than 13.
The comeback that came in the back half of the fourth quarter wasn’t even the first comeback of the night for the Pacers. After leading throughout the first, they began to struggle on the defensive end in the second, falling behind by eight with four minutes remaining in the first half.
Five quick points made it a one-possession game and Tyrese Haliburton wrapped up the 15-4 run with 1:15 to put them ahead by three.
Unfortunately, the 76ers had eight points of their own in the final minute, flipping the scoreboard in their favor at the break, using that to take their first double figure lead early in the third quarter. From there, it was a real uphill climb for the Pacers, struggling to make any progress throughout the third, eventually letting up another tough run to end the quarter, allowing Philadelphia to take a commanding 13-point lead into the fourth.
After mustering up just 23 points in the third quarter, Indiana’s offense did finally start to find some life in the fourth, but the same kind of success was not present on the defensive end as both teams traded baskets for the first five minutes when the starting lineup returned. The Pacers, managing to string together a pair of stops, started digging into the lead on a pair of free throw trips from Mathurin, making it a seven-point game midway through the quarter.
One of Philly’s biggest advantages of the game to that point was ball control. They had just four turnovers heading into the fourth, but suddenly began fumbling the ball, turning it over three of their next four possessions. That, in addition to a Myles Turner block gave Indiana extra opportunities that they took full advantage of, scoring eight straight, including two threes from Buddy Hield to make it a one point game with four minutes remaining.
Two more Sixers turnovers and a successful Pacers challenge later, Mathurin went to the basket, giving the Pacers a 113-112 lead. The lead would be two when De’Anthony Melton flipped the score on a three, eventually setting up Hield to match his triple. The fifth 76ers turnover of the fourth put the Pacers up two possessions after Turner laid it in.
After forcing a miss with 46 seconds left on the clock, the Pacers appeared to be in prime position to come away with another fourth quarter comeback and a fifth straight win. Andrew Nembhard got the ball across the half court and in an attempt to hand it off to Haliburton, had the lackadaisical pass broken up by Tyrese Maxey, who raced to the basket for a jam.
On the ensuing possession, Haliburton got around Harden into the paint, but Harden managed to poke the ball free, once again setting up Maxey for a transition bucket. That didn’t pan out, but the putback courtesy of Tobias Harris did, tying the game and setting up the first overtime period of the year for the Pacers.
In the extra time, the Pacers leaned heavily on Mathurin isolation plays, ultimately getting them a 124-122 lead, but rebounding struggles came back to bite Indiana, surrendering five straight second chance points. Indiana continued to look at Mathurin, who made some strong drives to the basket, unable to complete a shot or draw a foul, eventually winding up back in the hands of Philly.
Harden got the better of Mathurin on both ends, showing the rookie how to get away with fouls on one end and how to draw them with precision on the other, catching Mathurin in the air for a trip to the line, the Sixers up one. Surprisingly, however, Harden whiffed on both attempts, granting the Pacers a golden opportunity with 28 seconds remaining.
That again resulted in a Harden shove and no call on Mathurin at the basket, forcing the Pacers to foul with four seconds remaining, putting them up three on a pair of Harris free throws. Indiana advanced the ball and once inbounding it, noticed Philadelphia’s strategy would be to foul quickly to prevent a three point shot.
The foul to give gave Indiana one last look with three seconds remaining, forcing Hield to immediately go into a shot to avoid an on-the-floor whistle. It worked in Philly’s favor as the three sailed wide, Hield spinning to the ground, allowing the home Sixers to escape with the win, snapping Indiana’s four-game winning streak in the process.
It’s safe to say things got a little weird in overtime. The heavy focus on Mathurin almost appeared to be by design. Indiana had dished 30 assists in regulation, but after getting assisted on in his first basket of overtime, Mathurin became the focus as an isolation player, resulting in two points on 0-3 shooting, hitting two free throws.
Those aren’t exactly shining numbers, but Mathurin had a number of looks at the basket and in a future setting, would’ve probably had a few more trips to the line. That didn’t happen here, but stepping back and taking a look at what this Pacers season was expected to be...or what it’s supposed to be...or what it currently is, giving Mathurin those reps appeared to be a fine way to go about it, even given the end result.
Mathurin finished the game with 19 points, leading the second unit. He had four rebounds and two assists, including a really nice find to Jalen Smith late in the first quarter.
SLAM!— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 5, 2023
Jalen Smith strong under the rim! pic.twitter.com/PkSlzKswC5
Mathurin led the way with 10 free throw attempts, hitting nine, helping Indiana to a free 23-19 free throw advantage. He did shoot just 5-15 overall though, but it wasn’t a particularly efficient overall night for him or Hield even as both players helped guide Indiana back into the game in the fourth.
Hield led the Pacers with 24 points, nearly completing a double double with nine rebounds and six assists. His three point shot took a while to get going, shooting 3-10 in the first three quarters before coming alive on a 3-4 fourth. He and Mathurin combined for 21 of Indiana’s 36 fourth quarter points.
It was a balanced night overall for the Pacers, but they lacked a real extra punch until that fourth quarter run. To that point, they were led by Smith, playing very well off the bench with 17 points and six rebounds, scoring six himself in the fourth.
That helped Indiana to a 49-48 bench advantage and his three offensive boards helped Indiana to a 19-17 win in second chance points, though of course, neither did all that much for the Pacers in overtime.
All five starters reached double figures, including a 16 points, 12 assist night for Haliburton. Haliburton shot 50% overall, but was just 2-7 from deep, but did rebound well, pulling in seven total, three on the offensive end, joining Smith and Mathurin as team leaders. Nembhard’s costly turnover late was rough, but he was a bright spot early, scoring seven of his 12 in the first quarter.
Indiana’s defense left a lot to be desired throughout the game, but in addition to the turnovers late, Turner also stepped up as a rim protector, blocking three of his five shots in the fourth and overtime. That was part of a 14 point (6-8 shooting) and eight rebound night for the big man. Aaron Nesmith rounded things out with 11 points, hitting three triples with five rebounds and four assists.
After the quick roadie, Indiana will return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse for a pair of weekend outings, beginning against the Portland Trail Blazers. The last outing between the two teams didn’t fair too well for the blue and gold, but will catch a Portland team that has lost five straight road games on Friday night.