Positive: Bennedict Mathurin returns to form
After five lackluster scoring performances in a row, Bennedict Mathurin has started to get back in his groove, and it's been wonderful to see. After what Rick Carlisle deemed his best game in the past two years, Mathurin followed a 22-point, nine-rebound performance with an even better 26-point, 11-rebound game against Milwaukee, in which he looked even more comfortable shooting the ball from everywhere, sinking three of seven three-pointers and making it look easy in the process.
This has to feel great for the second-year Mathurin, who, prior to these two games, was averaging just 11 points on atrocious shooting splits while getting just under 10 shots per game despite starting. While Mathurin did show improvements in his playmaking during this cold stretch, it was not expected to come at such a big cost, that being his scoring falling off a cliff.
Recently, however, Mathurin has seemed to find the perfect balance between scoring and distributing the ball. While he only finished with two assists on the night, he was still making all the right reads and getting his teammates involved at any time.
This was not to say he was disregarding himself, though, as Mathurin had some fantastic plays off the iso that were reminiscent of his rookie days, including a fantastic play where he lost Cameron Payne on defense and finished strong with the dunk.
In addition to his terrific scoring, Mathurin showed some amazing defensive prowess, being the main defender on Giannis Antetokounmpo as he went scoreless in the final five minutes of the game and doing everything in his power to keep the five-inch taller Antetokounmpo at bay.
In a game decided by just a few possessions, Mathurin kept the Bucks' best player at bay during the most important stretch of the game and played a huge part in helping Indiana win those possessions.
This has to feel great for Mathurin, who was struggling on defense to start the regular season despite showing improvements in preseason. With the Jazz game and now an amazing performance against the Bucks under his belt, including some stellar defense on a two-time MVP having the game of his life, it can't be understated how much Mathurin's confidence has increased as of late, and the Pacers are better with that being the case.
Following the loss to the Hornets, some talks began to sizzle around the fanbase of potentially trading Mathurin for a second star to pair alongside Haliburton. However, what fans don't know is when Bennedict Mathurin is on his game, he is the perfect second star to pair alongside Haliburton.