Coming off an ugly loss to the LA Clippers the night prior, the Indiana Pacers deterring a losing streak didn’t look too probable on the second leg of a back-to-back against a rested Los Angeles Lakers team.
Spoiler alert: they won.
Despite trailing by 17 points with just approximately nine minutes left in the game, the Pacers managed to eclipse the Lakers which uncharacteristically enjoyed a great shooting night. Sans any defining momentum for the bulk of the contest, Indiana suddenly caught lightning in a bottle, and unleashed a furious late run to move up to 12-8 on the season.
How did they get there? The rookies played the role of villain, robbing the Lakers at the Crypt to the shock and chagrin of a sellout LA crowd.
Indiana Pacers rookies Andrew Nembhard and Bennedict Mathurin steal the show in Los Angeles
Lakers fans, particularly the LeBron stans, were definitely not happy campers with Bennedict Mathurin’s fiery comments about him months ago. Still, unfazed by the spotlight and the backlash, the Rookie of the Year frontrunner managed to outscore even James, finishing the game with 23 points and eight rebounds.
Mathurin led the charge for the Pacers after the team faced its biggest deficit, logging eight points during that span to help close the gap and set the stage for a memorable comeback.
However, the biggest villain came in the form of rookie Andrew Nembhard, arguably the steal of the 2022 NBA Draft, who nailed the coffin for the reeling Lakers with a brutally satisfying game-winning three-pointer to complete the comeback.
Despite missing the last four outings with a knee issue, Nembhard showed little rust in his first game since November 19, draining four three-pointers, including his buzzer-beating game-winner, to bail the Pacers out multiple times and eventually cement the dub.
However, overlooked by the glitz and glamour was his splendid defensive performance against LeBron. Despite giving up two to three inches in height and almost 60 pounds to the King, the pesky guard managed to limit him to a putrid 36.4 percent shooting from the field, his lowest mark so far this season.
Now at 12-8 and sole owners of fourth place in the East, Indiana suddenly regained momentum after up-and-down showings in recent games. This will go a long way in braving through this tough road trip, one that will see them meet Sacramento up next in a highly-anticipated matchup.
Overall, this win will definitely go down as one of the most memorable yet in recent years, not only because of the utter rarity of the Indiana Pacers slaying teams at the buzzer, but because of how their future just seems to get brighter game after game with the potential ROY and the inarguable steal of the draft making the franchise suddenly look like drafting connoisseurs.