Jarace Walker provides the lone bright spot for Pacers in embarrassing loss vs. Pelicans

The Pacers got crushed on Friday night, but the play from the rookie could signal some good news for Indiana down the road.

Mar 1, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  New Orleans Pelicans guard Jordan Hawkins (24) dribbles
Mar 1, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jordan Hawkins (24) dribbles / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers are coming off a demoralizing 102-129 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Despite beating Brandon Ingram and company on Wednesday on national TV, Indy couldn't turn that magic into a second straight win in New Orleans, going down 26-48 in the first quarter and showing little to no signs of life throughout the rest of the game. Chief among the blunders of the game was Tyrese Haliburton having the second scoreless game of his career and his first in a Pacers uniform.

In fact, the only signs of life Indy showed were in the second quarter when they sparked a 15-0 run and cut a 31-point Pelicans lead to just 11. Tyrese Haliburton was off the floor for this entire run, so the playmaking duties went to TJ McConnell and an unlikely participant, rookie Jarace Walker.

Ever since opening night, Pacers fans have been clamoring for Walker to get more minutes and become a full part of the rotation. However, Rick Carlisle has been reluctant to give Walker a full-time rotation spot and has flip-flopped him between rotation member and bench warmer, on days where he isn't on assignment with the G League that is. On nights when Walker gets the chance to shine, he usually makes the most of it. The biggest example was his 15 points to help an undermanned Pacers team overcome the Sacramento Kings on January 18.

That potential was on full display against the Pelicans, as Walker put up solid numbers of six points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals, and three blocks while leading the Pacers in plus/minus with +15. While falling only two steals and two blocks short of a 5x5 is impressive in itself, the way Walker changed the game after entering really needs to be talked about.

Despite having a bad shooting night, going 2/9 from the field, and having the worst efficiency on the team besides Haliburton, who went scoreless, and James Johnson who only took one shot, Walker's 27 minutes, a new career high, showed how he could impact the game outside of scoring. His rebounding and passing helped lead the charge in the 15-0 run to make the game somewhat close, finding the open man whenever possible and using his skills as a secondary playmaker to his advantage.

On a night where every single Pacers starter was a complete negative, Walker shone as perhaps the best player, with the Pacers looking fantastic with him on the floor and lost with him on the bench.

Of course, with Bruce Brown being traded a month and a half ago and Doug McDermott not exactly panning out so far, the Pacers still need help at the wing slot, and Walker may just be that help. With the playoffs approaching, and the Pacers' rotation nearing what it will look like by game 1 of the first round, Walker's improvements are exactly what this team needs to help with versatility and switchability on both ends of the floor.

Of course, the Pacers will need to make the playoffs in the first place for that to happen. Indiana is currently the eighth seed in the East after that loss to New Orleans, and with only 21 games left, they will have to step it up and string some wins together to get out of the merciless logjam that is the battle for the 4-8 seeds.

dark. Next. Next story. One thing the Pacers need Tyrese Haliburton to do more

Currently, they are only a game and a half away from 4th-seeded New York, and one good run may be all it takes to beat out the four teams ahead of them and fully avoid a Play-In nightmare or first-round matchup with the Celtics.