Pacers respond well, edge Cavs for first-ever NBA tournament victory
The Pacers got things started with the in-season tournament and recorded the first win. Haliburton and Turner discussed their play and the court, and Carlisle shared memories of Bob Knight.
The Pacers left Boston with a very bad taste in their mouthes after having what coach Rick Carlisle called an “embarrassing result”. They yielded 155 points to the 4-0 Celtics, were held to 104 and outscored by 45 from beyond the arc in a game we won’t soon forget.
The 51-point loss on Wednesday was the second-worst in franchise history.
The team took Thursday off ahead of a busy home stretch with five days in seven days, then got focused work in centered around defense during their pre-game walkthrough.
“I think the biggest thing was this was a division opponent,” Myles Turner said. “This is a team that we’ve seen quite a few times and coming off of last game, we had to get our mojo back.”
After not playing last game, Tyrese Haliburton and Jalen Smith were available — but the Cavs got an even larger boost in the form of Jarrett Allen making his season debut and guard Darius Garland starting after just one appearance this season.
And immediately, the Pacers answered the call. A great response to their showing on Wednesday. And this matchup, their second in a week against the Cavs, had a little extra juice because it marked the start of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament. (Don’t know exactly what that is? Get caught up here.) It wasn’t just their first (of four) games, it was also the first-ever tournament game that tipped off.
And so it was also the first in-season tournament victory.
Before the game, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff had a conversation with his team about the tournament to see where they stood and listen to their feedback.
“They believe that winning isn’t something that you turn on and off, that winning doesn’t just matter in April, May or June,” he shared pregame. “If you put something out there for these guys to win, a championship in anything, and they want to go win it.
The Pacers took one step closer to the Knockout Round by posting their best first quarter of the season (36 points), taking a 17-point lead into halftime and then having the right counters late to make a 12-1 run and fend off a Cavaliers team that always physical and tough to beat.
“It was a strong show of character for our team,” Carlisle said after their 121-116 win. … It was bend, don’t break kind of game for us.”
He was proud of the way they maintained an attitude and posture throughout, then clawed back after issues in the third quarter that will be chalked up to areas that must be used for them to grow.
Haliburton didn’t look like his normal self, never looking comfortable on the court. He tweaked an ankle in his last game and then appeared to stretch his groin after doing the splits on a slippery new court shortly into the game. (More on the court shortly.)
He’s also his own worst critic.
“I was just trash,” he said after finishing with 18 points and 13 assists on 5-of-14 shooting. “I’m not shooting it well right now. You could probably account it to a lot of things, but shots just aren’t going in. I got to stay true to what I do, stay true to my work and trust that.”
His first point came from a technical foul shot with three minutes left in the half. Then he scored a layup the next time down the floor.
He finally got going in the fourth quarter, first beating Donovan Mitchell and then sinking a floater over Evan Mobley. Haliburton looked at his hands as if to say thank goodness, one finally went in after starting 3 for 11.
This was at the start of a 12-1 run with six minutes to play. Just like he did in Cleveland last Saturday, Haliburton sealed the win late with a step-back jumper in front of the right arc. Toe on the line after Allen switched onto him with 17.7 seconds left.
“He had frustration offensively throughout the game,” Carlisle said, “but in the fourth he really narrowed his focus and found a way to get the ball in the basket when we needed it.”
On the next defensive sequence, Mobley had his layup rejected at the rim by Turner. It was one that you’ll see on highlight reels, so timely and clean.
Then LeVert missed a 3-pointer and Turner grabbed the rebound, his ninth of the game. All this after he led the Pacers offensively with 27 points by taking advantage of the pick-and-pop opportunities since the Cavs were in drop coverage.
“Tonight was insane,” said Turner, the longest-turned Pacer. “The fans really brought it tonight, especially in that fourth quarter.”