Pacers final score: Pacers close out Raptors 118-114

Mar 23, 2023 - 3:07 AM
NBA: <a href=Indiana Pacers at Toronto Raptors" src="" />
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Nembhard’s performance in his homecoming game proved the difference as the Indiana Pacers topped the Toronto Raptors, completing a season series sweep. Nembhard scored 25 points with 10 assists, hitting a late-game dagger to keep Indiana’s play-in chances alive.

Nembhard was one of three Canadians to start tonight’s game for the Pacers, joined by Oshae Brissett and Bennedict Mathurin, also making his debut north of the border. They rewarded Rick Carlisle’s decision immediately, with Brissett and Mathurin each knocking down threes and Nembhard completing a layup to push Indiana out to a 10-5 lead in the opening minutes.

Team Canada totaled 24 points in the first quarter, 14 from Nembhard, as the Pacers jumped out to a 36-26 lead after one, featuring a monster block from Mathurin as O.G. Anunoby looked for a basket in transition.

Much like the loss against Charlotte, the Pacers didn’t have much of a problem taking a lead, but constant miscues and turnovers made keeping it tough. The Pacers led by 56-43 at the two minute mark of the second quarter before a pair of turnovers brought life back into the Raptors, allowing them to close the half on a 9-2 run.

Mathurin opened the third quarter with a triple to stem the tide a bit, but rebounding issues persisted, as did fouls, keeping the Pacers from pushing their advantage any further than 10, leading by as many with 6:41 in the third when Fred VanVleet knocked in a three, kicking off a 12-0 Toronto run that gave the Raptors their first lead of the second half at 73-71.

Carlisle opted to not call a timeout after Malachi Flynn knocked in the go-ahead three, instead relying on his vets to calm things down. Myles Turner, courtesy of T.J. McConnell, did just that, scoring the next four points to put the Pacers back on top before McConnell scored four straight himself, giving the Pacers a five-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Raptors again started strong, scoring 10 straight to take a four-point lead. After a pair of Jordan Nwora free throws and a McConnell charge, the Pacers got back in the swing of things thanks to Brissett, throwing it down on Jakob Poeltl on the inbounds pass to put Indiana back on top.

Though it would lead to a technical foul on Brissett, the Raptors would never again take a lead, back-to-back threes from Aaron Nesmith and Mathurin giving Indiana a three point advantage. Surprisingly, the Pacers managed to hold on despite continuing to commit fouls and continuing to completely whiff on offensive rebounds, the Raptors getting to the line 21 times in the fourth, missing five.

Missed free throws haunted Toronto throughout the game, missing 10 in total. The Pacers, meanwhile, finished a perfect 11-11 in the fourth as Mathurin worked his way to the foul line to maintain Indiana’s lead late. The Pacers led by four in the final minute when Nembhard, shaking off Pascal Siakam, drilled a big time step back three to put the home Raptors to rest.

The Raptors have been a tough matchup for the Pacers in the past decade, the amount of time it’s been since their last regular season win in Toronto. They’ve entered the year having gone just 10-22 in the series matchup since then, which makes their 3-0 season series victory this year all the more surprising.

The Pacers got there through their offense, averaging 119 points per game, 118 tonight, shooting 55.8% as a team and a wildly efficient 11-21 from three. While Toronto outrebounded Indiana on the offensive glass 13-8 and forced Indiana into 18 turnovers, outscoring the Pacers 21-8 in the resulting points, it may have just come down to the Pacers, particularly that of their Canadian players, simply wanting it more.

Nembhard had a tremendous bounce back following his two-point dud against Charlotte, showing out from the opening jump to lead the Pacers with a double double, his third of the year, flashes of his performance in Golden State in December. Brissett finished with nine points and six rebounds while Mathurin finished with an efficient 15 points on 3-5 shooting, including 3-3 from deep and 6-6 at the line.

Outside of his block against Anunoby, it was a fairly quiet night for Mathurin, but his success was vital tonight as one of four starters in double figures. Buddy Hield was also a bit quiet, scoring 13 points on 5-8 shooting, but hit a pair of big buckets in the fourth. Turner also had a solid outing, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds, his four straight points in the third preventing this game from spiraling out of control.

Off the bench, McConnell was much more in control tonight, finishing with 14 points and seven assists, committing just two turnovers. He was a perfect 4-4 at the line and shot 5-12 from the floor. Nwora also finished in double figures, knocking in a pair of threes. Nesmith had just nine, but pulled in six rebounds, joining Isaiah Jackson on the glass, who finished with five points and six boards, three offensive, helping the Pacers to an efficient 17 second chance points.

Just when the Pacers look out of postseason contention, the rest of the Eastern Conference pulls them back in, moving a game ahead of Washington and back to within 1.5 of Chicago for 10th. It’s important to note the Pacers have won the season series against Chicago and Toronto, because the Raptors are just two ahead of Indiana in ninth.

They Pacers have improved to 3-3 in this current stretch without Tyrese Haliburton, setting up a season series finale against the Boston Celtics on Friday. The Pacers already have a win in the Garden this season, which could play perfectly into their wild inconsistencies over the past month, making any expectations impossible to predict.

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