GAME RECAP: Pacers 111, Magic 106
Domantas Sabonis and the Pacers sends the Magic's home with an L, 111-106.
Domantas Sabonis and the Pacers sends the Magic's home with an L, 111-106.
Holiday Brothers Connect for the Clutch Three
November 23, 2019 - Aaron Holiday, Justin Holiday, Doug McDermott, and Myles Turner discuss the 111-106 victory over the Orlando Magic Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
November 23, 2019 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan speaks with the media following Indiana's 111-106 win over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
November 23, 2019 - Aaron Holiday knifes through the lane for the smooth finish.
November 23, 2019 - T.J. McConnell converts the tough pass to Domantas Sabonis, who muscles it in through contact.
Domas Feeds Doug for the Dunk
Turner With the Easy Dunk
Nov. 23, 2019 - Former Indiana Mr. Basketball and Harlem Globetrotter Hallie Bryant is honored as the Hickory Honoree at Saturday's game.
November 23, 2019 - Domantas Sabonis rises up for the putback dunk.
November 23, 2019 - T.J. McConnell, Justin Holiday, and TJ Leaf team up for a well-executed fastbreak.
November 23, 2019 - T.J. McConnell and Justin Holiday each make sharp passes that end up with TJ Leaf hitting the corner three.
November 23, 2019 - T.J. McConnell shoots the smooth pass over to Doug McDermott for the 3-pointer.
November 23, 2019 - Myles Turner gets the defender to jump on the pump fake and gets the easy layup.
Holiday Takes Another Step
Less than four minutes remained, and the Pacers were wobbling precariously on a three-point lead over Orlando. Clearly, it was a situation that demanded poise and courage from the point guard.
Just as clearly, T.J. McConnell seemed perfect for the part. He had led the Pacers back from a seven-point deficit in the first quarter to a 10-point halftime lead and then played a major role in keeping them ahead in the fourth. He had contributed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds and kept the offense functioning smoothly throughout.
Pacers fans could have been forgiven for flinching when Nate McMillan subbed out McConnell for Aaron Holiday during a timeout with 3:54 left. And they could have been forgiven for fighting back tears as they watched Holiday threaten to give victory away by missing a driving layup at 3:37, throwing the ball away on an ill-advised pass at 1:16, and missing a 20-foot shot at 19.5 when the game was tied.
What happened next, however, will go down as a meaningful moment in Holiday's career to this point and perhaps a further indication of what's to come — not to mention a tribute to brotherly love. Myles Turner ran from the right wing to grab the miss of Holiday's jumper and fed Holiday to reset the clock. Holiday passed off to his brother, Justin, who drove to the free throw line and then flipped the ball back to Aaron behind the 3-point line.
Holiday's attempt barely cleared the fingertips of a flying Markelle Fultz and cleanly fell through the net, the game-winning shot in the Pacers' 111-106 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
These kids grow up before your very eyes sometimes, and that's what the Pacers are seeing from the youngest Holiday. After having the best game of his career with 24 points and 13 assists at Brooklyn on Monday he came back with the biggest shot of his career against the Magic in a game the Pacers were supposed to win and needed to win.
"These are the moments you dream of as a kid," Holiday said. "You're shooting outside, 3-2-1, throwing it up. It's pretty cool to see it go in."
Holiday's overall game was less impressive than at Brooklyn. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds, four assists, and four turnovers. He hit just 6-of-13 shots and 1-of-4 3-pointers. But for his final field goal to come shortly after a few missteps qualified it as another step forward in his career, which suddenly looks far more promising than only a month ago.
Brother Justin isn't surprised, and perhaps nobody should. If Aaron showed anything as a rookie last season it was a fearless streak for better and worse. He wasn't afraid of the moment, but he often misjudged it, forcing shots and passes. That's why he couldn't be trusted in the playoffs, when he played in three of the four games for a total of 13 minutes.
Different story now. The confidence remains but is backed by more substance. Having an older brother around no doubt helps.
"I thought I was going to shoot it," Justin said, "but when I saw his man leave him I said, 'I'll pass it to Aaron for sure, he'll make this.'"
Justin is seven years older than Aaron and hadn't seen him play all that often in person before this season. But the two played together and against one another in a lot of two-on-two games in the driveway of their California home with middle brother Jrue, who plays for New Orleans, and sister Lauren, who was headed for a standout career at UCLA before a series of concussions forced her early retirement.
Photo Credit: Matt Kryger
If Justin didn't know Aaron's professional game all that well before this season, he knew his mindset.
"Aaron is a very, very confident person," Justin said. "I've never seen him any other way. That's how most of us are in the family, I guess.
"You want to know something funny? I know with myself and Jrue, when we make mistakes, we try to find a way to change that and help the team out. For whatever reason we don't become afraid. Aaron has never been afraid of doing anything."
The phrase heard in McMillan's postgame press conference and around the Pacers' locker room Saturday was "the game is slowing down" for Aaron. It's often said about NFL quarterbacks as they gain experience as well, the ability to maintain pose in the line of fire.
It must have been moving at warp speed for the youngest Holiday in the season-opener exactly one month earlier. He managed to miss all six of his shots, including a reverse layup, in just 6 minutes, 44 seconds of action in the first half, and didn't play again. He didn't play in the next two games, either, as McMillan sent a strong message.
Now he looks like an NBA point guard. Fultz was the first pick in the draft two years ago but was only slightly better than Holiday on Saturday. Of all the intended Pacers reserves who have received unexpected playing time because of the run of injuries, Aaron has benefited most.
"Just getting comfortable, to be honest," he said. "The more I play, the more comfortable I'll get. The game has slowed down a lot. I'm trying to play at my own pace now and not worry about everything else.
"Just being out there for longer stints, it helps. I can see the game a lot better. Having the ball in my hands the last two games helped me a lot to be comfortable. This year I'm trying to be more patient and play my game and not let anybody speed me up."
Other than his brother, Aaron has no bigger booster on the roster than McConnell. It was McConnell who had Aaron in a headlock after a timeout was called following the game-breaking 3-pointer and was congratulating him. It was McConnell who helped Aaron through his rough patch at the start of the season. And it's McConnell who continues to stay in his ear, despite the fact McConnell stands to lose the most playing time by his protégé's improvement.
McConnell gives no hint of concern about that, despite his solid play. He didn't even mind being pulled from Saturday's game for the stretch run, and not just because he was fatigued.
"Nate knows what he's doing," McConnell said. "He's been doing this a long time. If he doesn't put Aaron in the game, he can't make that last shot. He made the right call.
"Aaron is unbelievably talented. When the game starts to slow down for him like it is, it's really scary for teams that have to defend him. He works his butt off every day. He's a great teammate, great guy. He's putting it together, the complete package."
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Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.
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