How Rick Carlisle's rotations played a part in costing the Pacers Game 2 vs New York

Rick Carlisle's rotation choices certainly didn't help the Indiana Pacers against the Knicks in Game 2.
Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Two
Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Two / Elsa/GettyImages

Rick Carlisle has struggled with rotations plenty in the playoffs this year, but Game 2 may have been one of his worst outings yet since it may have cost him a must-win playoff game.

After the Pacers got out to a hot start in Game 2 against the Knicks, even leading by 10 at halftime and as much as 12 shortly into the third quarter, the Knicks eventually came back and put the nail in the coffin in the fourth quarter to win 130-121. However, this could have been avoided if the Pacers stuck to the method that brought them back into the game in the first place.

For starters, Aaron Nesmith has been quite unremarkable in the playoffs so far. As a shooter, he has been streaky at best and downright awful at worst since suffering a shin injury against Toronto before the All-Star break. Unfortunately for Indiana, Game 2 was his worst outing yet, as he only scored six points on 2/7 shooting and 2/6 from deep while also turning the ball over twice and committing three fouls, including many plays to shift the momentum fully in New York's favor.

This makes the decision to play him 34 minutes quite puzzling, as he was not playing up to par and players like Obi Toppin and Ben Sheppard were clearly outplaying him. Toppin and Sheppard both played 20 minutes each but looked like far better players, with Toppin being second on the team in scoring with 20 points and Sheppard finishing with 11 points on 3/4 from deep. Unfortunately, both Toppin and Sheppard had to watch from the bench as Nesmith closed the game instead of either one of them, which did not do Indiana any favors down the stretch.

Speaking of players who sat out crucial stretches, T.J. McConnell perhaps played the biggest part in getting Indiana back into the game in the fourth quarter, as his flurry of points and offensive play helped cut an eight-point New York lead to only one point after four minutes. Bafflingly, McConnell would only play around 50 or so more seconds before being subbed out for the final seven minutes of the game.

This was a confusing substitution for multiple reasons, the most important reason perhaps being that McConnell was the only Pacers defender to deal any damage to Jalen Brunson, with Tyrese Haliburton and Andrew Nembhard not having much effect on him. Sure enough, Brunson scored 11 points in the final seven minutes to extend New York's lead and give them the extra lift needed to win the game.

There were a few other mistakes Carlisle made in Game 2, such as playing Myles Turner extensive fourth-quarter minutes over Isaiah Jackson, who was arguably having the better game, but in large, the over-reliance on Nesmith and disregard for McConnell and Toppin may have cost Indiana the game. What looked to be a Pacers comeback attempt was thwarted in part due to poor play, in part due to bad officiating, and in part due to Rick Carlisle not having the right rotations out there.


With Indiana staring down a potential 0-3 series deficit, the team needs to pick it up, and Rick Carlisle himself needs to figure out what works and what doesn't, as well as make moves on the fly to benefit Indiana the most down the stretch, regardless of rotations.