The Indiana Pacers were supposed to be bad.
With the excitement and recent high draft picks by the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic, most pundits had the Pacers pegged as the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The thought process was fairly easy to follow. Everyone likes Tyrese Haliburton, but he’s still growing into his role as “The Guy.” Buddy Hield’s a great shooter but doesn’t give you a lot more than that. Myles Turner is good, but he’s always in trade talks (plus the team tried to sign DeAndre Ayton in the offseason) and eventually that gets to a player. And Bennedict Mathurin was a great scorer in college, but he came out of nowhere and we needed to see how he adjusted to the NBA. Beyond that, the Pacers didn’t hold much in terms of promise. When Houston destroyed the Pacers in the preseason (yes, I know it was preseason), it appeared that the Pacers would be racing the Rockets and a slew of other teams to the bottom of the standings in hopes of landing Victor Wembanyama or any of the other studs in the upcoming draft class.
Except the Pacers haven’t stunk. They’re 7-6 and winners of four of their last five. Haliburton and Turner have led the team, and Mathurin has gotten heavy minutes while spending a good chunk of that time facing bench units. Isaiah Jackson had some hype coming into the season, and while he hasn’t exploded onto the scene, he’s been really solid. I know you’re tensing up in anticipation of my normal “Give the Gonzaga player his flowers” spiel, but there’s a reason I thought Andrew Nembhard was the best pure point guard in the draft and thought the Rockets made a mistake at the time by drafting TyTy Washington over Nembhard.
Back to the Pacers, they have five players who shoot better than league average from three point range. Each of those players hoist at least three attempts per game from downtown, with Hield (9.6 3PA) and Haliburton (7.1 3PA) especially willing to let it fly.
Indiana is third in the league in points per game, fifth in three point percentage, third in assists, second in pace, and second in fast break points. This is a team that clearly likes to get out and run. And when they run, they’re hunting triples. With Houston’s penchant for turning the ball over, don’t be surprised if the Pacers run away with this one. It feels like the beginning of something is happening over in Indiana.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest