The Indiana Pacers have made history…kind of.
Following an embarrassing 51-point loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, the Pacers looked to bounce back in the first game of the first-ever NBA In-Season Tournament.
This was not just any game but a rematch from the second game of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers, this time sporting a healthy starting lineup with Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen returning from injury.
To many Cavaliers fans, the previous Pacers win was a fluke, as it took some late-game heroics from Tyrese Haliburton to secure a win in the closing stages of the game. As such, the Pacers were determined to prove the doubters wrong tonight, and they did a great job of doing so.
Before we get to the game, we have to discuss the glaring elephant in the room. This was the first game Indiana played in their new City jerseys, which are also the first black jerseys in team history.
While the jerseys do take some getting used to, the same cannot be said for the brand new In-Season Tournament court the Pacers played on, as many fans were complaining about the overuse of bright colors such as yellow and blue, making the Pacers’ new court look more like a custom video game court than anything else.
The court would also prove to be a slipping hazard, not only for the Pacers but for a lot of other players around the league. Of the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton and Andrew Nembhard both slipped on the court and lost possession of the ball, introducing a new problem with the already not-so-great courts.
Tacky and slippery courts aside, the Pacers jumped out to a 17-point lead at the half, and despite Cleveland taking the lead a few times in the second half, some late-game heroics by Haliburton and Myles Turner ended up putting the game on ice for Indiana, as they took home the 121-117 win, officially putting them in the history books as the team with the first-ever NBA In-Season Tournament win.
This was easily the most exciting Pacers game so far into the season, as Indiana played with the energy of a team that lost by 51 points the game prior and turned that into some beautiful basketball as a result.
Let’s take a look at some of the keys to victory and some things the Pacers should look to improve on going forward.