1. Play under bright lights
A young team with playoff aspirations needs to get used to the big stages before they can perform under brighter lights. Seven of the 13 major players on the Indiana Pacers have never made the playoffs, and an additional player, Aaron Nesmith, was merely a background player in Boston's 2021 and 2022 playoff runs, only getting garbage time minutes in big wins or losses.
Buddy Hield, in particular, has been so devoid of success in his career that he currently has the fifth most games played without a playoff appearance in NBA history, with the majority of his career before his Pacers tenure spent on bad Kings teams.
In particular, Tyrese Haliburton has never experienced the bright lights of playoff competition or even been on national TV much before the In-Season Tournament, with the quarterfinal matchup against Boston being only the second time Haliburton had a national TV game in his career.
Haliburton's contributions are a story for later, but credit where credit is due; the rest of Indiana's supporting cast made their names known during the In-Season Tournament, most notably Myles Turner.
Despite talks of him being soft and not able to handle the responsibilities of a true center, Turner proved the doubters wrong in the first six games of the tournament, scoring 20 points per game to go along with 8.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks on 52% shooting in only 28 minutes per game.
In the tournament games, Turner was the closest thing to a second star next to Tyrese Haliburton, and his ability to space the floor, combined with his improved driving and finishing ability, opened up things plenty for Haliburton to operate and create shots for himself and others.
Despite his lackluster performance in Saturday's championship game, it was clear that Turner was still the Pacers' second-best player in the In-Season Tournament run and even their best at times when Haliburton couldn't get himself going.
In addition to Turner, Buddy Hield was also effective in the tournament, averaging 14.5 points on 52/50 splits, as well as Obi Toppin, who was third on the Pacers in scoring with 15.8 points on 65.6% from the field, and Isaiah Jackson, who was the Pacers best big man on the floor in the championship game when Turner had a bad night.
On the flip side, Indiana could have used better production from Bruce Brown, who averaged 13 points on 41% from the field and a mere 30% from downtown, and Bennedict Mathurin, who averaged 12 points on 41% from the field, although he did step it up in the finals matchup against LA, scoring 20 points and being the second best player on the floor.
Overall, while there were some hiccups along the way and a full on roadblock at the end, Indiana's others definitely gave worthwhile performances in the tournament and showed why they are also worthy of some attention alongside Haliburton.full-on