1 Unexpected outcome of Pacers’ run to the conference finals

Indiana's deep run in the playoffs led to one surprising development that will have future ramifications.
Andrew Nembhard, Indiana Pacers
Andrew Nembhard, Indiana Pacers / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After missing the playoffs for three straight seasons, the Indiana Pacers finally returned to the postseason in 2024, and in a big way. Entering as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, many counted out the Pacers from the outset, picking the Milwaukee Bucks to take them down in the first round even with Giannis Antetokounmpo injured.

But Indiana proved many doubters wrong in defeating not just the Bucks, but knocking out the red hot Knicks and Jalen Brunson in the next round as well. Running the floor and lighting up the scoreboard, the Pacers won in the playoffs in much of the same way they won in the regular season.

It was only after running into the juggernaut Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals that Indiana's efforts were finally not enough. They fell in a sweep, but there remains plenty to be proud of and much to look forward to for Pacers fans. Other NBA fans can claim Indiana only made it so far because of a weaker conference all they want, but the reality is that there were 13 other teams from the East that failed to get there.

The Pacers' deep playoff run certainly brought about one unexpected outcome, and that is the elevated role Andrew Nembhard seemed to solidify with his extremely solid play. For much of the year, Bennedict Mathurin had established himself as Indiana's other backcourt starter alongside Tyrese Haliburton. But with Mathurin out for the playoffs due to injury, Nembhard took advantage of his opportunity in a big way.

Nembhard solidified himself as the Pacers' other backcourt starter

For the playoffs as a whole, Andrew averaged 14.9 points, 5.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds with incredible shooting splits of 48% from three-point range and 56% from the floor overall. He did it while starting all 17 of the Pacers' playoff games and playing 36.2 minutes per night, legitimate starter minutes.

The considerable scoring ability of Nembhard made him a real game-changer for a team challenging higher-seeded opponents. It is entirely possible we saw Andrew take the starting role right in front of our eyes as the playoffs wore on. If that indeed becomes the case come opening night next season, we can expect to see Mathurin simply become the team's sixth man.

If you are the Pacers, this is a good problem to have (if you can even call it a problem). We have now seen Nembhard perform at a high level in a high-stakes environment in the playoffs. Indiana's coaching staff is now well aware that they can trust him to bring scoring power against great teams when all the chips are on the table. With that being the case, playing in the regular season will become that much easier for him to master.

And at this point, we know what Bennedict Mathurin brings to the table as well. Having him coming off the bench bringing athleticism and his own brand of scoring prowess will be a huge lift for the Pacers going forward.