Pacers spread the wealth to bury Hawks, now face Celtics for two games at Fieldhouse
The Pacers delivers 50 assists in dispatching a less than inspired Hawks team.
Sharing was caring at the Fieldhouse and the Pacers shared to the tune of a franchise record 50 assists en route to scoring 150 points and routing the Hawks, 150-116.
Naturally, Tyrese Haliburton lead the way with 18 assists to go with his 10 points. TJ McConnell also had a double-double off the bench with 10 points and 10 assists. Once again, the Pacers put up intriguing numbers to land at 150. Myles Turner scored a team-high 27 points, but while eight players scored in double figures, Turner was the only one to go over 20. In due time, everybody was eating, like all 14 players who saw time right down to James Johnson getting a finish at the rim much to the delight of his teammates and the Fieldhouse faithful that remained for garbage time.
Yes, there was garbage time which was inevitable when the Pacers maintained a lead in the 30s in the third quarter while the Hawks show little to no resistance. In fact, Trae Young had to remain on the court in garbage time just to push his scoring total to double figures after a 1 for 11 night from behind the arc.
Defense set tone
Rick Carlisle wasn’t pleased with the two 3-balls the Pacers gave up right after the tip, but from there, the starters settled in and delivered a spirited defensive effort which lead to plenty of good offense. The Pacers had 3 blocks and 2 steals in the first quarter which had them on the run and creating favorable offensive possessions, scoring 18 points in the paint and 9 points in transition.
The Pacers were active and disruptive defensively which has been the key to the Pacers current six-game winning streak since changing the starting lineup adding size with Stix Smith and allowing Aaron Nesmith to add his defensive effort from a wing position. In fact, in the small sample size of those last six games, the Pacers offensive rating is 128.5 (1st overall) while their defensive rating is 113.9 (9th overall) with net rating of 14.7 (1st overall) points per 100 possessions. To put it more succinctly, this is absurd.
It appears the Pacers may have to wait until at least Monday to test the new look against the Celtics. Nesmith turned his ankle and left early on Friday, so he is questionable to play on Saturday and it wouldn’t be surprising, even if the prognosis is positive, if he wasn’t held out until Monday if all is good. Also, Bruce Brown showed up on the injury report on Saturday as out with the knee bruise that kept him out the first few games of the current winning streak. Hopefully, this is just back-to-back injury management. Regardless of who plays for the Pacers, the C’s are the best team in the league and their size across the board is always a brutal matchup for the Pacers.
Still, this is a perfect test at this point with two games in three days against Boston at the Fieldhouse. The Celtics also played on Friday night and had a similar easy time, rolling past the Jazz, 126-97.
The Pacers battled through a rough stretch of the schedule which was to end briefly with the pair against Boston. Considering they won all of those games, including a pair against the Bucks, they can let it rip against Boston as the underdog trying to take down the top dog, a role this Pacers squad seems to relish.
Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
When: Saturday, Jan. 6, 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
Celtics: Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kristaps Porzingis
Pacers: Andrew Nembhard (sore back) - questionable, Aaron Nesmtih (ankle) - questionable, Isaiah Jackson (right hand) - questionable, Bruce Brown (right knee) - out
Celtics: Jordan Walsh (G-League) - out
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