Pacers bench big in beating Bucks, Haliburton named Player of the Week in East
Pacers start off 2024 in fine fashion with a win in Milwaukee and a little league-wide recognition.
Finally had a chance to watch the second half of the Pacers impressive, 122-113 win over the Bucks this evening. After watching most of the first half last night, thinking the Pacers showed up pretty well, but would likely fall short, I had to watch my Huskies deliver a life-threatening W in the College Football Playoff semis. Fortunately, my heart survived the stressful finish and my Dawgs survived to fight another week.
But the Pacers? Forget, surviving.
The Blue and Gold thrived in another intense matchup ON THE ROAD to beat the Bucks and take a 3-1 series advantage. These games have resembled a playoff experience in both the intensity of the play and the was both teams continually adjust from game to game.
After Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 64 and 54 points in two of the games, the Pacers threw another defender (or two) at the Greek Freak which helped hold him to 30. Progress. Damian Lillard was 1 for 9 from three and couldn’t supplement the offense as much as needed.
But forget the Bucks, the Pacers simply took this game. The bench rallied the Pacers from deficits in both halves with Bennedict Mathurin (26 pts, 13 rebs), TJ McConnell (16 pts, 9 asst) and Isaiah Jackson (18 pts, 9 rebs) making plays all over the place (including this signature effort play). In fact, we need to include Obi Toppin who continues to be useful off the bench. Toppin was +35 on the court in Milwaukee, filling in a bit more than usual with Aaron Nesmith and Myles Turner nursing foul trouble.
Rick Carlisle rewarded the reserves effort, leaving Mathurin, McConnell and Toppin in for the full fourth quarter as they eventually finished off the Bucks with Turner and Haliburton. You just can’t count out McConnell. Every time it seems he won’t be in the mix, an opportunity opens up and he exposes his value in remarkable fashion.
As for Mathurin, he has settled into a valuable role as a lead scoring threat on the second unit who Carlisle has no problem sticking with when he has it going. His impact other than scoring is where the progress shows up. His defensive awareness remains a work in progress, but his work thus far is showing up.
The Bucks will be at the Fieldhouse on Wednesday night to close out the season series (regular season). An early dust up with IJax and Bobby Portis made sure things remains spicy between the two teams. You have to love the way IJax responded and impacted the game after not backing down to Portis’ bully efforts.
One more thing on the game. The Pacers are 2-8 in 10 games this year when they make 12 or fewer 3-balls. Those two wins (and one of the losses) are against the Bucks in just another crazy angle to the wild first four games these two teams have played. In fact, after going 5 for 35 (that’s 14% people) last night, the Pacers are a combined 23 for 104 in those three games (12 for 68 in the wins). Hopefully on Wednesday, we can see how the Pacers fare when they have it going from behind the arc.
Grinding out a win on the road against a team like Milwaukee is just so nice and satisfying. A great way to start the new year.
Haliburton named Eastern Conference Player of the Week
After being nominated several weeks so far this season, Tyrese Haliburton was chosen as the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the last week in December. All Hali had to do was post a pair of 20-20 games to get the nod. More importantly, the Pacers were 3-0 which they backed up nicely with the win over the Bucks to tip off the 2024 calendar year. This is the second POW award for Haliburton with more to come in the future, no doubt.
Carlisle on injury status for Nembhard and Brown
On his weekly interview on The Fan’s morning show (listen here), Carlisle described the win over Milwaukee as frustrating as so many points, but the bench work made for a happy ending. He also provided a vague update on Andrew Nembhard, who left the game early with what is being described as a mid-back sprain (hurst just thinking about it), and Bruce Brown who has missed the past five games with a right knee bone bruise. Carlisle didn’t commit to either playing on Wednesday, but in describing Nembhard’s issue as not a long-term concern, it sure sounded like he would unlikely to play. The status of Brown sounded more hopeful which would surely help if Nembhard can’t go. I’ve been wondering how severe Brown’s kneed issue was or if they were giving him a break to try out some other rotation options without ‘benching’ their highest paid player. Surely that’s just me over thinking things, but we’ll see who shows up available on Wednesday.
Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
When: Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton, Bruce Brown, Aaron Nesmith, Jalen Smith, Myles Turner
Bucks: Damian Lillard, Malik Beasley, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brooke Lopez
Pacers: Bruce Brown (knee) - questionable, Andrew Nembhard (sore back) - questionable
Bucks: Krish Middleton (right knee/left wrist) - questionable, Jae Crowder (left leg) - out, AJ Green (nasal fracture) - out
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