Central Notes: Pacers, McConnell, P. Williams, Pistons

The Pacers had two tough calls go against them in the final minute of Game 1, but coach Rick Carlisle refused to blame the officials for the loss, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. The first came with 52 seconds remaining when Aaron Nesmith was called for a kicked ball violation, even though the ball appeared to hit his hand rather than his foot. The other one happened when Myles Turner was whistled for a moving screen with 18.4 seconds left to play. Carlisle challenged the call, but the replay crew upheld it and that decision was confirmed in the Last Two Minute report.

“There’s so many events in an NBA game,” Carlisle said. “They’re always a sharp focus on the last minute, but there were things that happened with five or six minutes left that really hurt us. We had one play where one of our guys took a wild run to try to gamble and steal the ball, and it turned into a four-point play for them. I think we had a five-point lead at the time, and so, it’s not just the last minute or two. It’s a whole game. The whole fourth quarter. So this is a great experience for our guys. It comes at a cost. It’s so fun. But we’re gonna have to learn some things for Game 2.”

With the series resuming tonight, Nehm states that Indiana will need improved play down the stretch from Tyrese Haliburton and more attention toward keeping Josh Hart off the boards and the free throw line. Hart collected 13 rebounds in the opener and scored 10 of his 24 points in transition.

“He’s probably one of the best rebounder wings in the league, if not the best rebounding wing in the league,” Haliburton said. “You got to match his intensity there when he’s crashing. He was getting downhill, getting to the free throw yesterday. And then just in transition, when he gets the ball, I think everybody in the world knows he’s going left to right, Euro step. Still, he gets to it.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Speaking to reporters before tonight’s game, Carlisle talked about how difficult it was to coach against Pacers guard T.J. McConnell before they joined forces, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Carlisle recalled a game in which his Dallas team turned the ball over 16 times in the first half against McConnell’s Sixers. “To me, he was always such an effective player,” Carlisle said. “… He was just an enormous annoyance when you’re trying to play them.”
  • Bulls forward Patrick Williams turned down a four-year extension offer worth about $64MM before the start of the 2023/24 season, sources tell K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Johnson adds that Williams, who is headed toward restricted free agency, is expected to make a full recovery well before training camp after having surgery on his left foot in February.
  • It has been more than three weeks since the Pistons announced that they plan to hire a new head of basketball operations, but there have been no reports of any interviews in that time, Keith Langlois of NBA.com notes in a mailbag column. Langlois expects the interview process to get underway soon so that draft preparation can begin in earnest.
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