Aaron Nesmith

Pacers Notes: Surprise Run, Offense, Haliburton, Nembhard, Nesmith, Siakam

The Pacers find themselves in the Cinderella role in these playoffs. After knocking off the Bucks in the first round, they put away the injury-ravaged Knicks in Game 7 on Sunday.

Now, they’ll face the top-seeded Celtics in the conference finals. All this after failing to qualify for the playoffs the previous three seasons and getting knocked out in the opening round in their five previous postseason appearances.

“Well, we’re the uninvited guest,” coach Rick Carlisle said, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “Here we are. When you win a Game 7 in Madison Square Garden, you’ve made history. It’s very, very difficult to do.”

The Pacers shot 67.1% from the field in the 130-109 win, setting an NBA playoff record for highest field goal percentage in a single game. They shot 76.3% in the first half. Tyrese Haliburton led the way with 26 points.

“It’s a testament to our coaching staff and our offense,” center Myles Turner said, the Indianapolis Star’s Dustin Dopirak relays. “We have a historic offense obviously, but this guy (Tyrese Haliburton) got things rolling and everybody just followed suit. To do that on the road when you’re in the Garden in a Game 7 obviously is phenomenal. This is what we’ve been doing all season long and it showed on a big stage.”

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • Haliburton scored a combined 28 points in the previous two games. He also had a six-point clunker in Game 1. He was efficient in Game 7, shooting 10-for-17 from the field while making six assists. “For me, aggression is not shots, it’s getting two feet in the paint,” Haliburton said. “I know it’s an old school way of thinking, but the more that I can get downhill, it opens things up for everybody else. Guys were making shots early. I just continued to get to the paint off these two guys (Turner’s and Pascal Siakam‘s) ball screens. Get to the rim and kick out to these guys to make plays. For me it’s just feeling out the game, what’s needed in that game. I know today’s Game 7, unload the clip, have no regrets because I would hate to be (expletive) all summer about not shooting the ball today. For me it was just about coming out and playing the right way.”
  • Andrew Nembhard and Aaron Nesmith made major offensive contributions, combining for 39 points. Nembhard shot 8-for-10 from the field and Nesmith made all eight of his shot attempts. “Those guys were great for us,” Siakam said. “They’re a big part of what we do.”
  • Siakam scored four baskets in the early going against former Raptors teammate OG Anunoby, who was hobbled by a hamstring injury and only lasted five minutes. “I was going to test him,” Siakam said. “I thought he didn’t look healthy out there. … I just wanted to make sure he was OK, but it was a Game 7.”

 

Central Notes: Pacers, Allen, Mitchell, Garland, Grimes

Sunday afternoon will mark the first experience with a Game 7 for most of the Pacers‘ roster, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Indiana extended the series with a convincing win in front of a home crowd Friday night, but a much different atmosphere will await the team at Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks have won all three matchups.

“It’s the ultimate game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s a great opportunity. … This team has been through a lot of new experiences over the last 3 1/2 weeks and this will be another new one. We’ll do everything possible to get them ready. In Game 7s, it comes down to compete level and how well you’re tied together.”

Dopirak notes that Pascal Siakam and T.J. McConnell faced each other in a Game 7 in 2019 when Toronto topped Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Myles Turner and James Johnson also have Game 7 experience, as does Aaron Nesmith, but he only played two total minutes in a pair of seventh games with Boston.

“The team that exerts the most energy and plays to exhaustion comes out on top and it’s win or go home,” McConnell said. “It’s something that I feel like every player plays for, a Game 7. Excited for the opportunity, but we have to be more dialed in than any of have ever been before. … If you’re not playing to exhaustion in this next game, why even go?”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers may explore trade opportunities involving center Jarrett Allen this offseason, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst stated on his Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link). “I would just say that while there’s extreme interest and excitement probably from certain fanbases to go to the trade machine and work out Donovan Mitchell trades, and maybe those will be needed in a month, we’ll see,” Windhorst said. “I would think the Cavs are going to be spending more time in this next month looking at possible Jarrett Allen trades, and what that could bring.”
  • On his latest Lowe Post podcast (YouTube link), ESPN’s Zach Lowe speculates that the Pelicans could be among the teams with interest in Mitchell and that the Spurs might pursue Darius Garland if the Cavaliers decide to break up their backcourt. “I will be surprised if Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland are both on the Cavaliers next season,” Lowe said. Which guard is more likely to land on the trade block will depend on whether or not Mitchell agrees to an extension.
  • A sprained knee limited Quentin Grimes to six games after the Pistons acquired him from New York at the trade deadline, but he should enter training camp with a chance to earn significant playing time, according to Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Grimes is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.

Pacers Notes: Nesmith, Haliburton, McConnell, Siakam

Aaron Nesmith (right shoulder soreness) is no longer on the Pacers‘ injury report heading into Game 5 on Tuesday, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Nesmith was listed as questionable for Game 4 before being upgraded to available and logging 24 minutes on Sunday.

Tyrese Haliburton, who is dealing with low back spasms, a right ankle sprain, and a sacral contusion, is once again listed as questionable, Dopirak notes. But like Nesmith, that was Haliburton’s designation before Game 4 as well and he was able to suit up. The star point guard was a +31 in 28 minutes in Sunday’s win, which evened the series at 2-2.

Here are a few more notes on the Pacers ahead of a pivotal Game 5 in New York:

  • T.J. McConnell struggled in Game 3 but has otherwise been one of the Pacers’ most effective players in the series vs. New York, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The veteran guard has averaged 12.3 points, 6.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in just 21.2 minutes per contest, and Indiana has a +16.0 net rating during his time on the court. “T.J., he’s one of our leaders,” teammate Myles Turner said. “He’s really taken it upon himself to lead that second unit.”
  • With the Pacers/Knicks series now essentially a best-of-three, Fred Katz and Eric Nehm of The Athletic pose five pressing questions for the rest of the series, including whether or not New York has run out of gas and which players could be X-factors in the remaining games.
  • Asked during a an appearance on FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link) about his claim in a French-language interview that Pacers forward Pascal Siakam is overrated, Wizards youngster Bilal Coulibaly clarified his comments, but didn’t exactly walk them back. “I just said he’s not overrated, but they were asking me who was the easiest superstar to guard,” Coulibaly said. “And I was like, Pascal, I watched the films and I knew what he was about to do, when he was going left, spinning around, going right. So he was the easiest superstar to guard.”
  • In a story for The Indianapolis Star, Dopirak takes a closer look at the key roster moves the Pacers made in recent years to build a roster that’s just two wins away from securing a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Pacers Notes: Haliburton, Nembhard, Nesmith

Pacers star guard Tyrese Haliburton suffered multiple injuries in Indiana’s Game 3 win over the Knicks, but battled through them to finish with 35 points and seven assists. After already dealing with lower back spasms, Haliburton hurt his tailbone and twisted his ankle in the span of a few minutes of game time, Dustin Dopirak of IndyStar writes.

My just overall body right now,” Haliburton said. “I’m hurtin’. But they got guys hurting too. We gotta understand that everybody’s hurting right now. Thank God we got a day in between. I’m young and I’ll heal up and be ready on Sunday.

He’ll likely be on the injury report ahead of Sunday’s Game 4, but coach Rick Carlisle said he’s hopeful Haliburton will be available.

We have more on the Pacers:

  • Haliburton has turned up the aggression for the Pacers after taking just six shots in the opening loss of the series, Dopirak writes. In his past two games, Haliburton is averaging 34.5 points and 8.0 assists while taking 22.5 shots – including 13.5 threes – per game. In his first seven playoff contests, Haliburton only averaged 13.0 shots per game, 8.4 of which were from downtown. He averaged 14.6 points and 9.1 assists in those games.
  • Despite a cold shooting night, Andrew Nembhard came up with one of the biggest plays in franchise history when he launched a three-pointer after a broken play to ultimately give Indiana the victory. Eric Nehm of The Athletic and Dopirak each explore in separate stories how Nembhard’s big shot came to be. “The clock was down, and sometimes, in those situations, it frees you up even more,” Carlisle said of Nembhard’s three-pointer. “And he just laced it.
  • Carlisle moved Aaron Nesmith onto the assignment of guarding Jalen Brunson, Kyle Neddenriep of IndyStar observes. “You can’t give New York a recipe of the same thing over and over again,” Carlisle said. “They are going to adjust. Brunson is too great a player. So, the idea was to change the matchup and get a little more size and Aaron did as good a job as you can possibly do. Brunson is so good. He’s the best scorer in the playoffs, I believe.” Nesmith helped hold Brunson to 26 points (down from his average of 35.6 through his first eight playoff games) on 38.5% shooting (down from 45.7%).

Pacers Notes: Haliburton, Game 2, Officiating, Carlisle

Tyrese Haliburton was a non-factor offensively in the Pacers’ tight loss to the Knicks during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday. Haliburton had just six points and committed three turnovers.

The Pacers advanced past the Bucks in the opening round even though their star guard shot 43.5% from the field and 29.6% on 3-point attempts, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. Haliburton only attempted six shots and did dish out eight assists in Monday’s four-point defeat.

“He gets trapped every time he comes off and pick and roll. And the best thing about Tyrese is he won’t force a bad shot,” fellow guard T.J. McConnell said. “He gets others involved and we trust him wholeheartedly. With the ball in his hands every single time.”

We have more on the Pacers:

  • Haliburton spoke about his offensive woes after the team’s practice on Tuesday and vowed to be better in Game 2. “I erred on the side of play-making … and that wasn’t the right decision for me,” Haliburton said, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN. “I still got to be who I am, but yeah, I’ll just be better (Wednesday).” Haliburton is dealing with back spasms and is listed as questionable for Game 2, as he was entering the series. “I’m confident he’ll play, but it’s a concern,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
  • The Pacers had a right to be upset with the officiating in Game 1 but generally chose to take the high road, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star writes. During the final minute, forward Aaron Nesmith deflected a pass with his hand that was called a kicked ball, stopping play dead instead of giving the Pacers a steal that they could have turned into a fast-break bucket. With 12 seconds left and the Pacers down 118-117, Myles Turner was called for an offensive foul for an illegal screen. “I don’t want to talk about the officiating,” Carlisle said. “We’re not expecting to get calls in here.” Turner felt the officials’ controversial calls marred a thrilling contest. “In my experience in this league, I think it’s best when the players decide the outcome of the game,” Turner said. “I think it’s unfortunate that it happened.” The league’s Last Two Minutes report indicated Turner did commit an offensive foul, Ian Begley of SNY TV tweets. Video of the plays can be found here (Twitter links).
  • Carlisle said in the pregame press conference on Monday that the Mavericks tried hard to trade up and snag Haliburton in the 2020 draft, when he slipped to the 12th pick, Dopirak tweets. “We thought he was the best player in the draft that year when we were in Dallas. We were trying desperately to trade up to get him,” Carlisle said. During a 2023 podcast appearance, Dallas’ then-owner, Mark Cuban, confirmed the team’s interest in trading up for Haliburton.

Central Notes: Mitchell, Morris, Lillard, Nesmith

Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell addressed speculation about his future Friday night after returning to the lineup following a six-game absence due to a broken nose and knee issues, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Speaking to the media for the first time since being sidelined, Mitchell said he wants to focus on the rest of the season and the playoffs rather than his contract.

“I think the biggest thing for me, as I said before to you earlier, I mean obviously you have to ask the question, but my focus is I got a lot of things to focus on outside of that right now,” he said. “I’ve got to focus on myself, getting back for this group, focus on us getting over this stretch, continuing to be ready when it comes time. So, I’ll handle that when it comes, and I understand you gotta ask that question and I’ll give you the same answer.”

The question is relevant because Mitchell will become eligible for a four-year extension this summer worth approximately $200MM. If he decides not to accept it, the Cavs may start looking for a trade to avoid the risk of losing him in free agency in 2025. There have been rumors for years that the New York City native would prefer to play at home, and Vardon notes that many other teams will also have offers ready for Cleveland if Mitchell becomes available.

Teammate Georges Niang and Cavaliers chairman Dan Gilbert recently expressed optimism that Mitchell will be part of the team’s long-term future, Vardon adds, with Gilbert indicating that the organization has been talking to Mitchell about an extension since he was acquired from Utah.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Even though he didn’t spend much time with his hometown Sixers, Cavaliers forward Marcus Morris is grateful that he got to play for them, according to Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia acquired Morris from the Clippers in early November, then shipped him to San Antonio at the trade deadline in February. After being waived by the Spurs, he agreed to a 10-day deal with the Cavs and signed for the rest of the season on Friday. “I built a really good relationship with those guys,” Morris said of the Sixers. “A lot of good things happened for me and my family while I was there. … They actually did me a favor by bringing me home, giving me an opportunity to check off something on my bucket list. I’m happy for them. Still watch them. I still connect with those guys. And I’m rooting for them — just not against us.”
  • Bucks guard Damian Lillard missed tonight’s game in Atlanta for personal reasons, and coach Doc Rivers told reporters he might not be available for Tuesday’s contest at Washington, per Jim Owczarski of The Journal-Sentinel. “Just miss the ‘when you need a bucket, you have Dame,'” Rivers said. “Also just running the team at times. It shortens your rotation again. Khris (Middleton) is still on a semi-minute restriction, even though we’ve ignored it a couple times. Just shortens your rotation.”
  • The Pacers defeated the Lakers Friday night, holding them to 60 fewer points than when the teams met over the weekend in L.A., notes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. A big part of the difference was the defensive effort by Aaron Nesmith, who committed just one foul while limiting LeBron James to 16 points. “I just stuck to the game plan,” Nesmith said. “He challenges you, but I just did a good job tonight.”

Pacers Notes: Sheppard, McDermott, Nesmith, Walker, Haliburton, Siakam

An illness forced Ben Sheppard to remain in New Orleans after missing Friday’s game, and the Pacers aren’t sure if he’ll be ready for Sunday’s contest in San Antonio, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Sheppard will also stay in New Orleans tonight, and the team won’t decide his availability for the matchup with the Spurs until Sunday morning.

“If he feels better in the morning, he may join us here,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “If not, he’ll meet us in Dallas (for a game Tuesday).”

The Pacers have already announced that they’ll be without Doug McDermott, who will miss his third straight game with a strained right calf. The game marks a homecoming for McDermott, who was acquired from San Antonio at the trade deadline.

“It’s going to be a few more games,” Carlisle said of McDermott’s status. “He’s not doing any activity other than rehab.”

There’s more on the Pacers:

  • Aaron Nesmith was able to return to the court Friday night after sitting out the previous four games with a sprained right ankle, Dopirak adds. The team’s starting small forward said he’s “never felt that sensation before” when he injured the ankle on February 14, but tests showed the damage wasn’t as serious as he feared it might be. “I put a lot of work in the last couple of weeks so wind-wise, I felt pretty good,” Nesmith said after posting nine points and three rebounds in 20 minutes. “I didn’t feel out of shape or out of breath. It took a second to get warmed up and catch up to the game and let the game come to me.”
  • A depleted bench and a lopsided loss provided extended playing time for rookie forward Jarace Walker, Dopirak adds in a separate story. The lottery pick logged nearly 27 minutes, and Dopirak notes that it’s the first time since January 21 that he has played more than seven minutes in an NBA game. “He’s got much more solid defensively,” Carlisle said. “In his last stint with the G League team, we asked him to concentrate more on rebounding. He did that. He had double figure rebounds in at least a couple of those games. I like his feel and his vision in playmaking, and there were a couple of times he got to the rim tonight and that’s another thing we’ve been talking to him about. He did many good things and he was ready.”
  • Earlier this week, Tyrese Haliburton talked about building chemistry with Pascal Siakam, who was acquired from Toronto in a mid-January trade (YouTube link).

Eastern Notes: Tatum, P. Williams, Nesmith, Cavs, LeVert

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum says he was “devastated” when Boston lost to Golden State in the 2022 NBA Finals, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Tatum was determined to advance as a play-maker after that experience, something he has continually improved upon over the years.

The easiest way to say it is, I was devastated,” Tatum said. “I got so close and didn’t perform the way I wanted to, and we didn’t win. At that time, besides my family, nothing else mattered but getting better and getting back to that point.”

Tatum had plenty of individual and team success through his first six seasons, with three All-NBA nods and three other trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, as Weiss writes, Tatum knows that the only way to become “the face of the league” is by claiming a championship.

I feel like it’s mine to take,” Tatum said. “I do feel like, if we win a championship, it would be more distinguished and clear. But I understand I’m in that shortlist for sure.”

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Bulls forward Patrick Williams is undergoing season-ending left foot surgery. He told reporters on Saturday that he had been trying to get back on the court by the end of February, but imaging revealed a fracture in his injured foot (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago). Williams is scheduled for surgery on March 6 in New York, with an expectation that he’ll resume basketball activities in July. As Johnson writes in a full story, the 22-year-old said he’s open to returning to Chicago as a restricted free agent this summer. “I don’t think anybody knows what their future is to be honest,” Williams said. “I would love to continue to be a Bull. I love it here. I love the opportunity we have to build culture, to build something special with this group and this team. I think I could really be a cornerstone piece for this team. But you never know what the future holds, and I understand it’s a business.
  • Fourth-year forward Aaron Nesmith, who is having a career-best season for the Pacers, was sidelined for Thursday’s win over Detroit due to an ankle injury and is considered day-to-day. Head coach Rick Carlisle said the 24-year-old was able to increase his activity a bit during Saturday’s practice, tweets Tony East of SI.com. The Pacers’ next game is Sunday against the red-hot Mavericks, winners of seven straight.
  • The Cavaliers dropped their first two games after the All-Star break without Donovan Mitchell, who has been battling an illness. Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber link) says the Cavs need more from their bench unit, particularly from Caris LeVert, who was just 3-of-21 from the field in those two losses. “I liked my looks tonight, especially in the second half,” LeVert told Fedor after going 1-of-11 on Friday. “I’m happy with how the ball is leaving my hands. Sometimes you go through that. Is what it is. It’s the NBA. Try not to think too much about it. Just continue to do what I do and be who I am. Do the same stuff outside of games and things like that. Just gotta keep going. I’m due for a big game.”

Central Notes: Giannis, Gallinari, Pistons, Haliburton

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said former coach Adrian Griffin was “figuring things out” before the team fired him last month, but he’s enjoying the security of having Doc Rivers in charge, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Antetokounmpo felt like he had to become a more vocal locker room leader earlier in the season with a first-time head coach running the team. That responsibility has eased, and Antetokounmpo expressed full confidence in Rivers’ ability to get the team ready for the postseason.

“We have to keep on evolving. We don’t have to change our identity,” he said. “Of course, we gotta be stronger. We gotta be tougher. I have to play better. I have to see the game better. But we have to keep on evolving. We have to add coach Doc’s philosophy with what has been working and hopefully can create a great mix for the next 25 games that we have and compete in the playoffs.”

Another major difference for Milwaukee will be the presence of Damian Lillard, a supreme scorer with the ability to take over playoff games. Antetokounmpo and Lillard had discussions about the direction of the season while they were in Indianapolis for All-Star Weekend, Nehm adds.

“I am his biggest fan,” Antetokounmpo said. “Good or bad, I ride with Dame until the f—ing end. I ride with Dame. Like I’ve been saying this over and over again. This. Is. His. Team. Down the stretch, he’s going to get the ball. There’s nothing else that we will do. I don’t know how else to put it. I don’t know what else to say. But at the end of the day, he has to believe it too.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Coach Billy Donovan talked to Danilo Gallinari about joining the Bulls before he opted to sign with Milwaukee, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Donovan, who coached Gallinari during the 2019/20 season in Oklahoma City, said the veteran forward was looking for a situation with a greater opportunity for playing time.
  • Pistons coach Monty Williams said winning as many games as possible will be the priority for the rest of the season, tweets Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. “I’m not going to be throwing certain combinations on the floor just to see how they look,” Williams said. “We’re done with that … we’ll be competing.”
  • Tyrese Haliburton had been listed as questionable with a hamstring issue for every game since January 30, but he’s not on the Pacers‘ injury report for Thursday’s contest with Detroit, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Aaron Nesmith will miss the game with a sprained right ankle, while Jalen Smith is questionable due to back spasms.

Central Notes: Griffin, Lillard, Pacers, Cunningham

The tensions that led to the Bucks‘ decision to fire head coach Adrian Griffin on Tuesday stemmed from a loss of their defensive identity, according to Ramona Shelburne and Jamal Collier of ESPN. A source tells the authors there was a “constant” string of internal conversations about why the team was falling short of expectations, even though Milwaukee is tied for the second-best record in the league at 30-13.

Griffin had a reputation as a defensive specialist after building the Raptors’ defense that resulted in a championship in 2019, and he impressed general manager Jon Horst and other team officials during the interview process with his ideas for the Bucks’ defense, according to Shelburne and Collier.

However, the aggressive scheme that Griffin implemented wasn’t popular with players, who couldn’t understand why center Brook Lopez was being taken out of drop coverage after finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, sources tell the authors. The new approach, which also included attacking ball-handlers far away from the basket, helped Milwaukee rise from 27th to fourth in the league in deflections, but the team ranked last in field goal percentage at the rim after five games before Griffin relented following a meeting with his top players.

Even though the Bucks kept winning, the defense never showed significant improvement, which caused the organization to lose its faith in Griffin. Shelburne and Collier note that former coaches reached out to Griffin to offer advice, including Lionel Hollins and Doc Rivers, who the authors say became a mentor to Griffin before ultimately replacing him in the job.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Fixing the Bucks‘ defense isn’t the only priority for Rivers as he takes over, observes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Damian Lillard is suffering through one of the worst shooting seasons of his career, connecting at just 42.7% from the field and 35.1% from three-point range, which are his lowest figures in nearly a decade. Nehm suggests that creating more pick-and-roll opportunities for Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo might be one of Rivers’ solutions.
  • The Pacers have a lot more options on defense after trading for Pascal Siakam, notes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Coach Rick Carlisle already took steps to improve atrocious defensive numbers early in the season by moving Aaron Nesmith and Jalen Smith into the starting lineup late last month. There has been progress, as Dopirak points out that the team is 19th in points allowed and 17th in defensive rating over its last 15 games.
  • The Pistons considered having Cade Cunningham return tonight, but coach Monty Williams will give him at least one more game off to recover from a left knee strain, tweets Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. “We felt like we were in a good place, but decided to make sure he’s in a good place before he’s out there,” Williams said in a pregame meeting with reporters. Cunningham was originally listed as probable before downgraded to questionable and then out.