Bennedict Mathurin's struggles getting slowly more concerning for Pacers

Bennedict Mathurin has not had the second-year season that most Indiana Pacers fans were hoping for.

Indiana Pacers, Bennedict Mathurin, Charlotte Hornets
Indiana Pacers, Bennedict Mathurin, Charlotte Hornets / Steven Ryan/GettyImages
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Bennedict Mathurin has not been playing well recently, and his struggles have only been the cherry on top of the Pacers' recent issues. Against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, Mathurin had one of the worst games of his young career, going scoreless on four shot attempts and doing basically nothing of note in just under 15 minutes of action.

While Mathurin has had one scoreless game in his career before this, that being the March 9, 2023 matchup against Houston where he went scoreless in a nine-point win, he only played three minutes that night as opposed to the over 14 he played on Monday.

This has been the fourth game of a rough stretch for Mathurin lately, going back to the first Charlotte game on February 4. Including that day, Mathurin has played in four out of five games, logging a DNP in the Houston game, and has averaged 7.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and less than one assist per game on 24% from the field, 25% from three, and 69% from the free throw line, hardly rotation minutes let alone sixth man minutes.

This production, or lack thereof, has not come in sparse minutes either, as Mathurin has averaged just over 22 minutes per game during this stretch, being used as the permanent 6th man, especially now with Buddy Hield not on the team anymore.

Speaking of Hield, many thought his getting dealt to Philadelphia would open a large opportunity for the Pacers' young swingmen to take advantage, get some extra touches, and contribute far more to the team, Mathurin chief among them.

To some, Hield was seen as a relic of the past. As the second-oldest player on the team, a lot of the team's failures this season were seen as somewhat of a result of Hield's play, and some expected Indiana to improve immediately with the removal of him.

This has not been the case, as there have been some growing pains along the way, which have not been helped by new Pacer Doug McDermott not having scored once in his second Pacers tenure yet.

Seen as the biggest beneficiary of the trade to some, Mathurin was expected to take a leap in production after the trade and has not delivered on that so far, averaging a mere five points, 2.7 rebounds, and 0.7 assists on 19% from the field and ZERO percent from beyond the arc in three games since the trade.

This has most likely not been due to a lack of effort, however. For a while now, Mathurin has battled a mysterious illness that has hampered his play, taking him out of action in the Houston Rockets game and the Boston and New York games before that.

Due to this illness, or at least partially due to it, Mathurin's game has been off for a few weeks now. However, Mathurin is a competitor and not one to miss games, and he has routinely toughed it out and decided to play regardless, despite playing poorly.

Poor play and all, Mathurin should be appreciated for playing in every game possible and not letting anything stop him, but at this point, it has to be said that it would probably be a better idea to sit him out until the end of the All-Star Break. With only one game left before Pacers basketball takes an eight-day break, now will be a good time for Mathurin to rest and recover at home and take some time to himself.

In addition to the illness, Rick Carlisle also stated recently that Mathurin may have hurt his leg in the New York game on Saturday and did not look right physically at all against Charlotte. This may explain his passiveness that night, only taking four shots and looking quite sluggish out there.

More injury issues are not something Mathurin needs at this point, especially with him also battling some toe issues recently, which were the cause of him missing Indiana's matchup against Boston on TNT.

This four-game stretch has done a number on Mathurin's season averages, bringing him down to 14 points per game on 45% shooting, but it would be wrong for Indy to give up on him if that doesn't seem obvious. Lest people forget, Mathurin had a similar bad stretch earlier in the year, which, while it may not have been as bad as this one, was not hampered by injury or illness and which he recovered from quite nicely soon after.

Still only 21 years old and one of the most important parts of the team, this can mostly be chalked up to a sophomore slump that other Class of 2022 rookies have felt this season as well.

Going into the playoffs, Indiana is going to need Mathurin to play well to have any hopes of advancing past the usual first-round exit. His ability to slow the game down to his pace cannot be understated and it shows in the numbers, with him usually playing fantastic in Indiana's wins and dreadful in their losses, making him perhaps the most impactful player on the team.

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Is it time to give up on Bennedict Mathurin after a rough stretch? No, not at all. He has shown plenty of reason to keep faith in himself and his play, and just like the usual sophomore slumps, his game will eventually come back around.