The Indiana Pacers get their first win of the season
The Indiana Pacers start their season with a record of 1-2 after beating the Detroit Pistons at home. Here are my takeaways from their last two games in the Fieldhouse.
Pacers vs Spurs
The Indiana Pacers start the season with a 1-2 record.
In what he would call a poor performance on Friday night, Tyrese Haliburton scored 27 points on 9/18 shooting and posted 12 assists in the loss to San Antonio. Haliburton did have his struggles in the first half but was able to catch his stride after halftime. He helped the Pacers rally from a 20+ point deficit to lose by just three points.
The final score was: 137-134 Spurs
Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard impressed Mathurin has been a bright spot in this Pacers offense as a whole but has yet to find chemistry (at least in the starting unit).
I think missing Myles Turner impacted these younger players who he may have been helping on the defensive end with communication. If he is not there, it is on them and when your team is this young, miscues are inevitable. The starting unit has little flow to it and is very perimeter heavy at the moment. The ball swings around a lot, but the driving lanes aren’t attacked frequently and sometimes you can see possessions stagnate.
However, that is less true when Mathurin enters the game. He drives the majority of his touches, opening shots for others but also finishing at the rim with a high rate of success for a rookie. Rick Carlisle saw this trend in Friday’s game and adjusted rotations to keep the team’s energy and offensive flow. To start the second half, Mathurin and Bitadze were on the floor (Goga has been great) instead of the normal starters.
Andrew Nembhard made his rookie debut on Friday and led the team in minutes played. He played a solid game and was able to score 14 points on 12 shot attempts. He took on the backup point guard role as McConnell saw fewer minutes (he was not hurt).
The Indiana Pacers have a lot invested in their 31st overall pick — they want him to log minutes and grow into that backup point guard role in this team’s future. I thought he performed well and am excited to see more of him on the court. He is a great passer and has a good sense for making reads which I know the coaches preached this offseason.
Pacers vs Pistons
The Indiana Pacers had their first win of the season against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday. Several players contributed, but the Pacers’ backcourt of Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin is shaping this team’s identity.
Slow starts continue to be a negative factor for Indiana, but their ability to climb back into games is what makes the team so fun to watch. Maybe it is simply the youthful energy that this team has, but nonetheless, each game they’ve played has played out this way.
The final score: 124-115
There are a few players who I can not stop writing about. Not because I do not want to, but because they won’t let me. Bennedict Mathurin and Tyrese Haliburton were fantastic yet again.
For Mathurin, he is a scoring freak. His first two games have been very downhill and have been where he’s shown to be the best. He shot 15% from the three-point line in the preseason which is not something I expected to continue into the regular season — he has a great and consistent jump shot.
Tonight he was the team’s leading scorer with 27 points and led in shot attempts as well with 18. Even better, he was 5/8 from the three-point line and man was he feeling it. The Fieldhouse was electric and his three ball felt unstoppable — going in during all the right times to keep the Pistons from being able to climb back into this game.
Here is a look at his numbers in comparison to the first overall pick of his draft class:
Mathurin was also active on the glass grabbing seven rebounds, which felt like everyone on the roster made their focus. Three Pacers had a double-double in this game. Mathurin has been special for the Pacers this season and he enjoyed his first matchup against Jaden Ivey, who was drafted one spot ahead of him.
Mathurin shared his thoughts on the matchup between those two after the game. His response to if there is a chip on his shoulder when playing someone drafted ahead of him:
“For sure you know. I know exactly who was drafted before me. It is nothing personal, but I am going to make sure every time I step on the court they know who I am. If it is a draft pick or whoever it is in general. Jaden Ivey is a great player, his space is crazy, so it was really fun playing my first time against him”.
Tyrese Haliburton continues to be the backbone of this Pacers offense, even though at times the second unit can provide a spark, in each game Haliburton catches his stride at the right moments. That stood out in this game because I thought he played well throughout. He had 24 points on 16 shots and 10 assists along with leading the team in minutes played.
He sunk multiple big shots to put away this Pistons team late in the game and he was feeling it — the crowd was too. I can recall with only seconds on the clock, Haliburton running back to Carlisle and McConnell to discuss some in-game matter. You see the passion there as he was making sure his teammates knew what to do to seal the game. Even though the Pacers had the game won at that point, he played until the game was over and it was fun to see that level of detail from this team’s leader.
Through three games, Tyrese is averaging 25.7 points per game and 9.7 assists. That is pretty good.
The young backcourt played well, but Goga Bitadze and Jalen Smith had their best games of the season. Both players had a double-double with points and rebounds. Bitadze posted 14 points and 15 rebounds while Smith had 19 points and 15 rebounds. A tremendous night for these two. Smith moved back to the four spot for this game where he practiced all training camp. He also had three blocked shots, which in person felt like much more than that. Smith was everywhere around the rim and the team’s energy seemed to feed off of that.
Bitadze has been fantastic to start this season averaging seven points and six rebounds over three games. He has seen extended minutes with Myles Turner missing time and he has taken advantage of that. He is a solid screener and is grabbing rebounds on the offensive end of the court and converting for second-chance points like I have not seen in some time.
We even saw Goga catching a lob from Mathurin in this game which I can not remember ever seeing from him during his time with the Pacers. I may be wrong, but it shows how confident he has been to start the year.
You can see his decision-making with the ball being much quicker and the second units he has been in are bringing great energy in each game. Most of the time, it is units he is in that spark a comeback or in this case holding a lead. It says a lot about Bitadze’s growth in year four and it is cool to see when given the opportunity.
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