Trade deadline looms after a pair of Pacers wins
Team health and vibes are all trending in the right direction for the Pacers.
The Pacers took care of business on the road against the Hornets on Sunday, out running the out-manned hosts without forcing Tyrese Haliburton to extend his minutes deep into the fourth quarter.
While Haliburton had been on a minutes restriction in prior games, monitoring those minutes in Charlotte was rendered moot with Pascal Siakam, Aaron Nesmith and Bennedict Mathurin (off the bench) doing the heavy lifting as the Pacers cruised to a 115-99 win.
In a much more stringent test at the Fieldhouse on Tuesday, the Pacers rallied to beat the Rockets 132-129. While there were many incredible plays, by both teams, the highlight for Pacers fans was the 29 minutes Haliburton played without incident.
Those minutes included the closing stretch which saw Hali finish in the lane to finish off the Rockets and then politely explain what had happened directly to Dillon Brooks as both started back the other way. With 16,000 fans in the Fieldhouse sharing in the joy, Haliburton had plenty of backup to get chesty at winning time.
While the progression of Haliburton’s minutes was huge, Siakam again played a lead role with 29 points including a 4 of 6 effort from behind the arc. The appreciation for variety of ways Siakam helps make things work for the Pacers continues to grow. He’s posting big numbers without flash or fan fare. His fit with this team is seamless and air tight and just scratching the surface as we wait for a full-throttle Haliburton.
However, the way Haliburton closed out the dub over Houston was a great sneak preview of how having both he and Siakam closing games at the same provides more winning options at closing time.
The positive reinforcement of the two wins came at a perfect time for the Pacers, with the 3 p.m. ET NBA trade deadline looming on Thursday. Rumors are plentiful, many revolving around Buddy Hield who has been struggling overall of late, but showed up big against the Rockets and then had Haliburton and TJ McConnell explaining his value after the game, as Dustin Dopirak reported.
"I think the one thing that people need to understand with Buddy Hield -- and I've played with him my whole career -- is the gravity that he has as a basketball player," Haliburton said. "His spacing even when he's not making shots -- which isn't often, I mean, he's one of the best shooters who's ever touched a basketball -- his gravity when he's on the floor and in our stack actions and in our movement actions, a lot of times, you have to respect what he does even if he's not making shots in the game. You have to run two at them and that kind of opens up everything for us."
"To the normal person, I don't think they realize how important Buddy Hield is to what we do," McConnell said. "Even if he's not shooting the ball. The attention he brings -- and they can get messed up on defense -- he's the best in the league at it. We love having him out there."
The Pacers seem to be happy to stand pat after making an early deal for Siakam. However, they risk eating expiring contracts of Hield, Obi Toppin and Jalen Smith if they can’t or don’t want to extend any or all of the trio after the season. It seems like the Pacers will have to be blown away by a deal to make a move, but such a bounty would need to be a player that can help now, say a Dorian Finney-Smith or draft picks in the future.
The team has plenty of young talent and doesn’t seem interested in adding more youngins via draft picks in the immediate future. But there also remains clogged spots on the roster with guards and bigs, including young players like Isaiah Jackson and Jarace Walker yearning for more opportunities. Those young, inexpensive options will be key going forward to mesh with Hali, Siakam (he will re-sign, right?) and a couple of others at the top end of the salary cap. All making the trade deadline quite intriguing even if the Pacers appear quiet and uninterested in deadline deals.
Set your Woj and Shams X notifications just in case.
Meanwhile, the games must go on and the Pacers play their last home game before the All-Star break on Thursday evening, well after the trade deadline, against the Golden State Warriors. The two teams have been linked to rumors about Andrew Wiggins, so it will be interesting to see what moves are made (or note made) by both teams before tip time.
The Pacers catch a break by catching the Dubs on a back-to-back after they play Philly on Wednesday night. The Pacers injury report is in good shape with only questionable status for Hali, Mathurin (who was ill for Rockets game) and Stix. We’ll see how the Warriors injury list evolves after playing in Philly.
Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
When: Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan
Odds: Pacers +4.5
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard, Aaron Nesmith, Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner
Warriors: Steph Curry, Brandin Podziemski, Klay Thompson, Jonathan Kuminga, Draymond Green,
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton (hamstring) - questionable, Bennedict Mathurin (illness) - questionable, Jalen Smith (back) - out
Warriors: Andrew Wiggins (ankle) - probable, Draymond Green (knee) - questionable, Chris Paul (hand) - out, Gary Payton II (hamstring) - out
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