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Has Pacers' rotation rhythm unlocked Bennedict Mathurin?
The Pacers lottery pick last season has been a major factor in the last two wins at the Fieldhouse.
Following the Pacers 126-124 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, the Pacers social media team filmed an ebullient Bennedict Mathurin making his way to the locker room.
The second-year guard was big when it mattered, finishing with 26 points and 11 rebounds, his second 20-point game in as many nights.
“I don’t care about the stats, man,” Mathurin said. “We got the win! That’s all that matters. 4-1 homestand and we’re going to Philly. WE GOOD, BABY!”
At 6-3 after the successful stint at the Fieldhouse, the Pacers are good, indeed. But, while Mathurin wants to focus on the wins over the stats, his numbers in the wins over Utah and Milwaukee were critical. For this team to meet or exceed any positive expectations, Benn’s development into a consistent threat will be key. And that includes offensive production.
He earned a bigger role, including a spot in the closing lineup, because he was making the Pacers go alongside Tyrese Haliburton and that means Mathurin was producing. It started against Utah, when he scored 22 points with 9 rebounds and 4 assists. He is also 7-14 from 3-land in the past two games. Oh, and his defensive disposition has been much improved, including a ‘clutch’ strip of Giannis Antetokounmpo late in the win over the Bucks.
One key factor, is fine tuning Mathurin’s spot in the playing rotation after he starts the game. His use in the Utah game should be the template going forward. He usually leaves the game midway through the first quarter, then returns to run with a reserve-heavy unit.
Against the Jazz, Mathurin sat just 90 seconds then returned and finished the first, then played the first four minutes of the second (about 8:30 game time) with Andrew Nembhard, Aaron Nesmith, Buddy Hield and Jalen Smith. They were +9 in the stretch to finish the first quarter and the five have developed into a key grouping that keeps the Pacers on the attack for 48 minutes.
That reserve group has only played four games together, but now have the second most minutes behind the starting unit. According to NBA stats, their offensive rating is 123 points per 100 possessions while their defensive rating is 98.3 for net rating of 24.6.
In other words, more please!
It is no surprise that if you swap Haliburton for Mathurin in that lineup they have an even better net rating, although with fewer minutes, all of which are small samples at this time.
But, finding that sweet spot in the rotation to bring out more from Mathurin is huge. He can alter his role and focus on the floor with the different groups and figuring out how to balance his game has earned him more minutes, including at closing time when he offers another threat on the floor that must be accounted for by the defense.
There is also an innate intensity Mathurin brings when he has it going that was so noticeable during the Milwaukee game as the Pacers scrapped and clawed their way back from a 10-point deficit to put away the W. The relentless dog in his game also gives juice to Haliburton as he’s leading the team. Ramping up the edge everyone plays with is always good. Kind of like all of the good juice Lance Stephenson could add to the floor when he had it going.
The Pacers are now off to Philly for two games against the Sixers which comes at a perfect time. Since letting James Harden fly, Joel Embiid and the Sixers seem focused strictly on basketball and are playing at an elite level. The Pacers were unable to measure up in such a challenge against Boston sans Haliburton earlier in the season, so this will be the test they need to see what kind of team they can be. The Pacers depth has been huge, but games have to be close for them to make all 48 minutes count.
First game is on Sunday.
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