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Indiana Pacers Mid-Season Report

Trevor Ruszkowski / USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers current record is not a reliable indicator of their performance and this years campaign could not possibly be considered a disappointment. This is a team that oddsmakers expected to only win 25 games all season.

However, at the halfway point of the season, this Pacers squad was sixth in the Eastern Conference with an impressive 23 wins and 18 losses. With a young group of budding stars like Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, and Myles Turner, there was hope of a playoff berth. Maybe this team could do more than just wait around for a full-blown rebuild.

That is when it started to fall apart. The Pacers have gone 6-19 since their win over the Charlotte Hornets which pushed them to 23-18 on January 8th, dropping to twelfth in the Eastern Conference. They’ve had some absolutely brutal stretches in these games. A seven-game losing streak was quickly followed up by a four-game skid, and then another five game losing streak shortly after.

The Pacers are merely scraping by even they’ve won recently. Four of their six wins in this stretch were by a single possession, and only two of these wins were against teams over .500. With a veteran coach in Rick Carlisle and the previously mentioned young standouts, we can only ask: how did the team decline so quickly?


Haliburton’s Impact

It would be unfair to define the Pacers’ season just off of their last 25 games. This team sat in a competitive position just a few weeks ago, and are a mere two games out of the tenth seed to qualify for the Play-In tournament.

Haliburton has been leading the way all year with his first All-Star selection this year. The second-year guard was acquired by the Pacers in the Domantas Sabonis trade with the Sacramento Kings, and it’s safe to say the trade has benefited both teams. Haliburton has been key to the Pacers’ successes, averaging over 20 points per game and establishing himself as a formidable perimeter defender.

The Iowa State alum’s biggest impact to the team has come through his facilitation, where his 10.3 assists per game rank him second in the entire NBA this season. This skill that has really made the difference for this Pacers team. Haliburton’s ability to share the ball and get his teammates open looks has helped build chemistry among his young co-stars. This Pacers team functions as one cohesive unit win or lose, thanks in large part to the dimes dropped by Haliburton.

Support Cast

Many members of the Pacers supporting cast have also had some great moments this year. Turner is averaging career highs in points and rebounds while shooting on the highest efficiency of his career. 

Sharpshooter Buddy Hield and rookie sensation Mathurin are the two main offensive spark plugs for the Pacers outside of Haliburton. Hield has made the most threes out of anybody this year and participated in the NBA three-point contest, helping to add to Haliburton’s impressive assist mark.

Mathurin would arguably be running away with the Rookie of the Year Award if it not for Paolo Banchero having a historical run himself. Aaron Nesmith, Jalen Smith, and the recently acquired Jordan Nwora are all making strides in developing their own game as young bench players as well.


Why They’re Falling

Missing Haliburton

If you’ve been following this team recently, this one seems obvious. The Pacers are 2-11 this year without their All-Star point guard, who has suffered from several different ailments thus far. Many teams are going to be better when they have their best player, but if the rest of the team can’t tread water without their number one guy, that’s a recipe for disaster. 

Defensive Woes

Whether or not you think defense wins championships, you have to at least try to play defense if you want to win games in the NBA. Defense has been optional for the Pacers as of recently.

The Pacers are giving up 122 points per game in their last 25 games, and rank 25th in points allowed per game in the league. This has only been exacerbated by Haliburton’s absence, leaving only Turner as the sole elite defensive presence on the court. The Pacers are 0-3 in games where they’ve scored over 130 points.

Boxing Out

The Pacers allow the fourth most rebounds to their opponents in the league, bad enough to rank third most in second chance points allowed. There’s no one on the roster you would call an elite rebounder with the exception of Turner, seeing that they also have no one ranked in the top twenty of any rebounding statistics. This ineptitude on the offensive glass is not doing them any favors when added to their already present defensive struggles.


Looking To The Future

Regardless of all the negatives you could nitpick about this team, there’s still much to be hopeful for. All of their core players, including the All-Star Haliburton, are under contract until 2024. Their next three games are against either the basement-dwelling Houston Rockets or Detroit Pistons, which could turn their current skid around.

The Pacers have a full sixteen games to regain two games on the tenth seed to qualify for the Play-In tournament. Who knows where some help from the draft and maybe a bold move in free agency can take this team. We should definitely be on the lookout for the Pacers, both in the present and the future.

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