Running thoughts: Team effort, second-half turnaround carries Pacers to win over Raptors
Early foul trouble, necessary truth at half, Haliburton passed his way through shooting woes and a dominant fourth by the Pacers to close out a homestand.
Here are my running thoughts from the Pacers’ come-from-behind win, 118-104, over the Toronto Raptors Saturday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
The Raptors are in a tough spot. Their fifth game in seven days in five different cities. They lost last night (Friday) in Oklahoma City, flew two hours and didn’t arrive in Indy 1:30 a.m.
They were shorthanded, without several key players: Pascal Siakam (right adductor sprain), Fred VanVleet (non-Covid illness), Precious Achiuwa (right ankle sprain) and Khem Birch (right knee soreness).
Former Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren is on staff with the Raptors, but he is not with the team as he continues to serve as the Canadian National Team coach for World Cup Qualifiers.
Pacers reserve James Johnson was ruled out 30 minutes before tip-off with back soreness.
Daniel Theis was acquired by the Pacers in July, but he hasn’t appeared in a game just yet. And he won’t for a while after having a minor procedure on his right knee to hopefully reduce swelling. Although he’s not on the bench, I’m told that he returned to town on Friday afternoon.
Pacers are debuting their new Nike City Edition uniforms tonight, the first of seven games. They do look better on players, but aren’t great. Especially the black. But I’m not going to pile on. From what I’ve been told, the Pacers were in a bad spot, had to craft a new design on short notice and now will be taking more ownership of the process because of it.
I will say this: There was not a special photoshoot for players in this uniform and there was not a unique intro video like there usually is for special nights.
Darnell Hillman sat in the IndyCar and was the honorary person to Rev It Up before tip-off. Are you fans paying attention to this new addition at home games? Do you even care?
Rookie guard Andrew Nembhard, starting his third straight game, picked up his second foul just three minutes in. T.J. McConnell then replaced him in the lineup and was whistled for two fouls in less than a minute. This doesn’t bode well, especially for the continuity of the lineups.
Raptors have attempted 11 free throws less than five minutes in. That’s on pace for about 100 attempts. Please, no.
Buddy Hield and Jalen Smith were later called for their second with three minutes left in the quarter — making fouls 10-2. Four Pacers with two while the Raptors have two as a team.
Tyrese Haliburton played the entire first quarter, did not score but recorded six assists and helped the Pacers to a 28-26 advantage despite the foul trouble.
Head coach Rick Carlisle after the game: “It was a very, very ugly first half. They were playing their fifth game in seven nights, they were running dribble weaves chewing the clock up and dropping it in to taller guys for isos and shortening the game. And we were just letting them do it.”
The Raptors have opened this one up, using a 19-4 run to grow their lead to 11.
Pacers are 2 for 8 with just six points in the first seven minutes of the second period. Working hard to find their footing — and avoid foul trouble. It's a junk-it-up type of game.
4:21: Haliburton finally scored, knocking down a contested layup. He’s 1 for 8 in the first half.
Haliburton postgame: “It’s Toronto, man. That’s how they play. They’re going to play physical, they usually got five guys out there all about 6-5, who are all crashing (the glass), all switching everything. They really make the game a junk game, in a sense, but that’s how they thrive.”
Raptors were +15 in the quarter to take a 65-52 lead into the break. The Pacers were held to 41% shooting and had almost as many fouls (15) as field goals (18). Having 12 first-half TOs is also tough.
Carlisle had a heart-to-heart conversation with the team at halftime. He was not pleased, nor should he have been.
Carlisle: “It’s frustrating when you realize that your team is just not trying hard enough. That’s a very daunting feeling. At halftime, I had a very honest conversation with them about what was happening, why they were doing what they were doing, and how if we allowed them to continue to do it, it was going to be ugly. And why we were not going to allow it.”
Assistant coach Mike Weinar informed them that they had 20 possessions in the first half when it was one pass or less to a shot. That wasn’t going to cut it.
Pacers are knocking down some shots finally, making four of their first six 3s. They used a 18-4 run to get to within one, 73-72.
3:45: Haliburton is in some pain. It appears to be his right ankle. He headed back toward the locker room with associate head athletic trainer Carl Eaton during the timeout and was replaced in the lineup by McConnell.
Well, that was quick. A minute after the timeout ended, he returned to the bench and put on his shooting shirt. Eaton gave a thumbs up, so he’s good to return. While he only has two points, he’s dished out 12 assists in the first three quarters.
Haliburton afterward on the ankle: “It hurts right now, but I’ll be all right.”
The two starting bigs are really helping keep the Pacers afloat. Myles Turner has 17 points and Smith has 16 going into the final frame.
Mathurin and Nembhard aren’t the only Canadians; don’t forget Oshae Brissett. He was inserted because of foul trouble and had his best game of the season. He scored six in a row, three straight times at the rim, to make it a one-point game with 8:58 left. (The latest basket coming on a fantastic full-court pass from McConnell.)
“Well, I was tired as hell,” Brissett said with a big smile. It was a podium game for him. “I can say that. But it felt great. It feels great to see the ball go in, it feels great seeing my teammates jump up and down and be happy for me. Overall, it’s a big boost for us.”
Added Carlisle: “Oshae demonstrated what a professional is. A professional is someone that keeps their head down, keeps working, stays ready, doesn’t complain, is always upbeat.”
Brissett, who has only played in half the games: “It always feel great seeing the work show for itself. Through anything, I’m just going to continue being myself. Playing or not, I love basketball and I love my teammates.”
6:25: Pacers have the lead back after two free throws from Brissett. 100-99.
Carlisle shared this: “When it was 99-82, I looked at the score and I said to myself that if there’s any way possible for us to get to 100 before them, that would be a very important thing. We did. It was 100-99, then we had the challenge we won. Then they (Toronto) were just real tired at that point.”
6:14: Carlisle used a timeout to challenge a bad call. It was clearly last touched by the Raptors. And it was a momentum call, I believe. Still plenty of time with in a close game and you shouldn’t have to use it for something so obvious. The Pacers went down and scored on their next two possessions, growing their lead to five.
Yet another example of why coaches should keep the challenge if they win it.
2:23: Turner makes two free throws. It’s 109-101. Double-double for Myles. And this one is about done with. Raptors are gassed.
Coming into the season, Turner acknowledged that he needed to become a better rebounder, especially as the 5-man. With 19 & 10 tonight, he has a double-double for the fourth time in six games, including three in a row.
“I looked at the scoreboard at one point and it felt like Myles had like 30 rebounds,” said Haliburton. “He kept coming down, crashing hard. That’s Toronto, they’re going to crash five.”
118-104 is the final. Pacers go 3-1 on this four-game homestand, posting wins over the Heat, Pelicans and Raptors. All playoff teams.
This was a game where the Pacers needed everybody. Three starters and three reserves reached double figures. Buddy Hield scored 13 of his team-high 22 points in the second half, including five 3s. He remains hot.
The Pacers shot 61% in the second half, making 11 of 22 3-point attempts to complete a 15-point comeback. They had to erase an eight-point deficit entering the fourth.
Carlisle: “The second half looked like us. We did the right things to wear them down and make it hard on them and the crowd got into it and it’s a win that feels good. The first 24 minutes was not good. We’re gonna have to remember it and learn from it.”
With 3:20 left, Haliburton drilled a 3 from 28 feet and it put them up by two scores. He jumped up and down five times, then looked to the sky with his hands in a praying position and basically said finally! “It just felt like I couldn’t get one to go, I couldn’t buy a bucket. I’m missing layups and having a rough game scoring the basketball.”
And yet he finished with a season-high 15 assists. His mindset was that his shots would eventually fall and to keep affecting the game in other ways.
Carlisle on Haliburton fighting through offensive struggles: “I thought his spirit in the second half was very uplifting for us. This is why we traded for him, this is why we gave up a lot to get him.”
Former Indiana wing O.G. Anunoby paced the Raptors with 26 points in 36 minutes. And the Raptors ended the game going 23 of 29 at the foul line.
The Pacers outscored the Raptors 36-14 in the fourth and managed to win despite 21 turnovers to the Raptors’ 12.
They’re now back to .500 (6-6)
Up next: The Pacers have three days between games and will take Sunday off. Their next two are on the road, Wednesday in Charlotte (7 p.m. ET) and Friday in Houston (8:00 p.m. ET).
Watched Brissett play when he was at Toronto and he continues as a Pacer to play with tremendous grit. Respects the game and plays hard. Your words about Halliburton, revealing. Well done.