Group Play: The warm-ups
The Indiana Pacers In-Season Tournament run started on November 3 with a matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite the night's main focus being on the disgustingly bright blue Pacers tournament court, Indiana still showed out and came away with the 121-116 win despite 38 points from Donovan Mitchell.
While Tyrese Haliburton's 18 points and 13 assists were impressive and a nice appetizer to his future performances in the tourney, the biggest star of the night was undoubtedly Myles Turner, who scored 27 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and had a key block on Evan Mobley in the closing moments to give Indiana the win against a fully healthy Cavaliers team.
Nine days after this game, Indiana headed to Philadelphia for the second of two games against the 76ers, the second game of tournament group play. Following a heartbreaking loss a few days prior in which Tyrese Maxey scored a career-high 50 points, Indiana learned from their mistakes and beat Philadelphia in a high-scoring affair.
Tyrese Haliburton and Obi Toppin were the main contributors to the Pacers win, with Toppin scoring 27 points and grabbing six rebounds and Haliburton showing more of what type of play the tournament would bring out of him, as he put up 33 points and dished out 15 assists with no turnovers, something that he would replicate very soon after.
Eight days after this, the Pacers played what is perhaps the game of the year against the Hawks in State Farm Arena. In a game I was present for, Indiana beat Atlanta in a pure scoring battle 157-152, combining for 309 points and coming back from an 85-point Hawks first half to improve their tournament record to 3-0.
Once again, Tyrese Haliburton was the star of the night, scoring 37 points and dishing out 16 assists as Indiana won the shootout and got one step closer to being undefeated in group play.
Indiana's final obstacle standing between them and an undefeated group play record was the lowly Detroit Pistons. Despite keeping it close for the first three quarters, a fourth-quarter barrage from Indiana and the best defensive quarter they have played all season quickly put the game out of reach.
Indiana turned a close game through three quarters into a 23-point win over Cade Cunningham and company to improve their record to a perfect 4-0 in group play.
Unfortunately for the Pacers, the Milwaukee Bucks also went undefeated in group play, and due to the point differential system and Milwaukee beating the Miami Heat, Indiana would be matched up against the best team in the Eastern Conference in the quarterfinals, the Boston Celtics.