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Bennedict Mathurin's defensive success in offensive struggles
Indiana Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin has moved into the starting lineup. A new opportunity brings new struggles, but it is a challenge Mathurin is not afraid of.
Bennedict Mathurin sprained his ankle and missed four games after being a reliant piece all season. He left as a rotational player and returned as a starter.
He has replaced Buddy Hield in the starting lineup for the last four games as Rick Carlisle is trying to get him used to this level of play. Not that he hasn’t had his chances throughout the season, but he has not been a consistent starter like his fellow rookie Andrew Nembhard. Not because Mathurin is not good, but rather how Carlisle likes his lineups to be — plus Andrew Nembhard can defend well for a rookie.
So now it is Mathurin’s time to shine, which I presume will be the case for the remainder of the regular season. Shine he did in his first game back, scoring 18 points and a handful of assists in 30 minutes of play. However, the offensive production has been on a downward trajectory.
He scored 15 points against Toronto, followed by 2 points against the Celtics and 4 points against the Hawks. Knowing Mathurin’s history, these low-scoring games won’t last for long.
Mathurin has started in 10 games this season and averages 12.6 points per game in that role. This would be different if given the opportunity of consistency in that role, but not bad for the rookie.
Although he has not scored at a high clip over the past few games, the point is growth, and there are noticeable moments of that in these last few games. Defensively there are examples from last night’s game in Atlanta. One of those was a great one-on-one defensive possession, and the other was a great read for a steal.
In this first clip, Mathurin closes out, shifts his feet to stay balanced, and then uses that footing to help propel him into the shot contest.
This resulted in a Murray miss, but it should be noted that good defense is not determined by player X missing the shot over player Y. In this case, Mathurin does his job, and the Hawks come up empty for the possession.
One of the intriguing plays from the Pacers VS Hawks was this Mathurin steal. He reads Aaron Holiday driving in the lane and times the reach well to get the Pacers a shot in transition.
Although Buddy Hield misses the pull-up three-point shot, Mathruin is there to track down the miss and get a layup of his own. Great anticipation on both ends leads to Pacers’ points.
Mathurin’s low-scoring games do not bother me, and you know he is unphased. With consistency added to this role, he will finish the year strong, and it is not like the Pacers are nearing a playoff run anyway. Let the rook have minutes against good starters and more time with Tyrese Haliburton on the floor. Building chemistry with Haliburton, Mathurin, and Myles Turner seems like a good thing to do for the future of the franchise.
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