Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 7:00 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse
After being outmuscled by the Knicks in a 131-114 preseason loss on Friday night at Madison Square Garden, the Pacers were hoping to fare better in a rematch with New York in Indianapolis on Wednesday.
Though they trailed for much of the night, the Pacers remained within striking distance, then closed with a flourish.
Rookies Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard led the Blue & Gold down the stretch as they erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit with a 24-6 run and pulled out a 109-100 preseason win.
Mathurin finished with a game-high 27 points, going 8-for-13 from the field and 11-for-12 from the free throw line. Fellow 2022 draft pick Nembhard added 15 points and nine assists, going 6-for-12 from the field and 2-for-4 from 3-point range.
"Our younger guys really experienced some growth opportunity tonight," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. "...Nembhard was great. Cool under pressure, big shots, great feel. Mathurin gets the ball in the hole and does it in an efficient way."
The Pacers held an early 12-10 lead on Wednesday before the Knicks mounted the first major charge of the night. Jalen Brunson scored eight points for New York during a 17-2 run to open up a double-digit lead.
Back-to-back baskets by Mathurin stopped the bleeding for Indiana. An and-one by Mathurin and a Nembhard jumper trimmed the deficit to seven points with 14.3 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. But Immanuel Quickley answered with a three on the other end to push the Knicks' lead back to 33-23 after one.
The Blue & Gold managed to trim the lead to four on T.J. McConnell's 3-pointer with 7:49 remaining in the second quarter. They got within four on two more occasions, but the Knicks eventually used a 9-2 run to push the lead back to 11.
The Pacers closed the half with a flurry, thanks to a Jalen Smith three, two Mathurin free throws, and a Chris Duarte trey with five seconds left in the half to make it 51-48.
But RJ Barrett raced to the other end and drew a foul with 0.6 seconds left. He made the first free throw and missed the second, but Mitchell Robinson tipped in the miss at the buzzer for an unconventional three-point play, giving New York a 54-48 lead at halftime.
The Pacers continued to hang around in the third quarter, eventually trimming the deficit to 64-62 with 6:46 remaining on Terry Taylor's two-hand slam. But 12 points from Barrett in the quarter prevented Indiana from taking the lead.
Once again, the Pacers closed a quarter strong. Mathurin scored five straight points before Isaiah Jackson's slam off a dish from Andrew Nembhard made it a 79-77 game with 47.8 seconds left in the third. After a stop, Mathurin had a look to tie the game, but couldn't get a right-handed runner to fall and Indiana entered the fourth quarter down by two.
The Blue & Gold finally moved in front on Nembhard's jumper with 9:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. That put the Pacers in front, 82-81, their first lead since the 6:23 mark in the first quarter.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Miles McBride scored on the other end 16 seconds later. Two Obi Toppin dunks then pushed the Knicks' lead back to five. After two Oshae Brissett free throws, New York reeled off seven straight points and suddenly led 94-84 with 6:23 remaining.
Still, Mathurin and the Pacers refused to go down quietly. The rookie reeled off five straight points to keep Indiana within striking distance. Back-to-back threes by Nembhard and Goga Bitadze cut the deficit to one as the game hit the three-minute mark.
Then, after a McBride miss, Nembhard drained another three to give Indiana a 98-96 lead with 2:32 remaining.
"I think I just stayed aggressive," Nembhard said of his strong finish. "I missed a couple shots going for it at the beginning of the game and then just kept staying aggressive. A lot of guys on the bench were telling me to keep hunting my shot."
The rookie added another jumper at the 2:07 mark. Quickley answered with a three on the other end, only for Bitadze to match him with another trey.
Mathurin provided the exclamation mark on an impressive close by Indiana's youngsters, stealing the ball from Cam Reddish and throwing down a windmill dunk in transition to stretch the lead to six with 41.4 seconds remaining.
"The fans were really hyped up," Mathurin said. "It's preseason, but it counts as a game for me. It was pretty amazing. First game in (Gainbridge Fieldhouse), it was a dub. I'm pretty excited for the next game."
Duarte finished with 13 points and five rebounds, while Myles Turner added 10 points and seven boards for Indiana.
Barrett had a team-high 21 points for New York before sitting out the fourth quarter. Randle added 13 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.
The Pacers won despite being without starting point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who sat out Wednesday's exhibition with minor lower back soreness.
Indiana hosts Houston in their final preseason game on Friday before opening the regular season next Wednesday against Washington.
Inside the Numbers
Nembhard scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, going 5-for-7 from the field in the frame.
Bitadze did not play until the fourth quarter, but was very effective in eight minutes in the final frame, scoring eight points on 3-of-3 shooting (2-of-2 from beyond the arc) and blocking two shots.
Indiana outscored the Knicks 54-42 in points in the paint.
The Pacers' bench outscored New York's reserves, 65-39.
You Can Quote Me On That
"We've been working so hard and just come out there and play the game...That's what we do. It don't matter (if) it's preseason game or what kind of game or a practice or scrimmage. We go at each other and then we go at the opposing team." -Bitadze on the fourth-quarter rally
"I got to the line really often and that's what got me going. Maybe that's one thing I should be doing every single game, trying to get to the line." -Mathurin on his big night
"He's got a really great knack for a young player of finding the cracks in the defense and then being able to get in there, avoid charges, get contact, and in many cases, finish. It's a craft that a lot of players it takes years (to develop)." -Carlisle on Mathurin
"He's got a lot of potential, man. He's just super aggressive coming in. He's super strong, super athletic, so it makes it easy for him. I think he's more athletic than 90 percent guys of the league at his position...and he loves to work." -Bitadze on Mathurin
"He's got a lot of potential, man. He's just super aggressive coming in. He's super strong, super athletic, so it makes him easy for him. I think he's more athletic than 90 guys of the league at his position...and he loves to work." -Bitadze on Mathurin
"We had a rough outing out there in New York and we came back and we fought and bounced back and adjusted nicely to them." -Taylor on showing improvement from the last game
Stat of the Night
The Pacers outscored the Knicks 25-6 over the final 6:09 of Wednesday's game. Indiana limited New York to just two field goals over that stretch and one over the final 4:05.
- Pacers forward Jalen Smith was held out of the second half after injuring his pinkie finger late in the second quarter.
- Trevelin Queen, who signed a two-way contract with Indiana on Tuesday evening, did not dress for Wednesday's game.
- The Pacers announced earlier on Wednesday that they picked up the third-year team options on Duarte and Jackson's contracts and the fourth-year options on Haliburton and Aaron Nesmith's contracts.
- Indiana University men's basketball coach Mike Woodson, who coached the Knicks from 2012-14, was in attendance at Wednesday's game.
The Pacers host the Houston Rockets at Gainbridge Fieldhouse for their preseason finale on Friday, Oct. 14 at 7:00 PM ET.
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