Pacers drop opener as Bennedict Mathurin impresses in NBA debut — a dream come true
Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd sat courtside, then talked exclusively with Fieldhouse Files about Bennedict Mathurin's game
There’s 6:46 on the clock when the substitution is made. Inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse as the Pacers tipped off a new season against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, an estimated 15,027 fans in attendance roared as No. 00 Bennedict Mathurin, taken sixth overall in June, made his NBA debut.
He jogged on the floor in their gold Statement Edition uniforms, pulled up the white sleeve on his left arm. On the first offensive possession, his number was called.
Tyrese Haliburton brought the ball up the right side and sent a pass to the top of the arc. Without hesitation, Mathurin ripped the ball to his left side, took two dribbles and went up to score a basket off the glass over the 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis.
“It was great. It’s always been my dream to play in the NBA,” he said after the game. “Stepping into every game like it’s a big game. Preseason, summer league, my first NBA game, I got the same mindset. I prepare the same every time before a game.”
Just 20 years old, he’s fearless and the most confident rookie I’ve come across. It’s not a win, but he’ll remember this night because every player does. It’s a moment they’ve dreamed about for years.
“There were no fans (because it was 2020), but I was like, not terrified but I was so jittery and so excited to go,” Tyrese Haliburton recalled of his first game.
Added head coach Rick Carlisle: “In your first NBA game, you’ve got to make it an immersive experience and just take it all in.”
Mathurin finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and three turnovers in 28 minutes off the bench. And he helped these Pacers nearly complete a late comeback. He missed three of his five free throws and on an offensive rebound, Haliburton missed a 3-pointer that would’ve tied the game at 110 with 31 seconds left.
The Pacers never led and trailed by as many as 18 points in a 114-107 loss to open the season. In front of dozens of family members and close friends, Haliburton led the Pacers like they've been asking him to do. We even saw a more aggressive side come out as he paced all scorers with 26 points and seven assists.
“I spent the whole summer working on my mindset, my approach with the game of basketball,” he said. “It’s not a work-in-progress anymore, it’s becoming who I am.”
The Pacers, specifically Myles Turner, caught an unlucky break when he suffered a left ankle sprain two hours before tipoff and then was ruled out for the game. Working on skill work around the basket, he stepped on a basketball assistant’s foot on his way up to finish. He was uncomfortable, visibly upset, then hit a courtside chair on his way back to the locker room.