Once again, the offense-minded Pacers managed to score higher than their league-leading average. Against the Raptors yesterday, they punctured the nets to the tune of 131 points, three more than their norm for the season and 21 clear of that of the visiting Raptors. It didn’t matter than they were on the second night of a back-to-back set, or that they needed to travel 500 miles from Atlanta, albeit via charter, for their homestand. For all the seeming handicaps, they proved up to the task of burning rubber from start to finish. For the match, they took and made 91 and 50 shots, respectively. In other words, it was just another day in the office for them.
To the chagrin of the 17,091 fans at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse, however, the Pacers could not quite claim the ultimate objective. They wound up absorbing a loss against the Raptors via the narrowest of margins — and arguably because of questionable decision making with the outcome on the line. Another basket in the crunch would have sealed the deal for them; unfortunately, they flubbed two of their last three possessions heading into the final buzzer. The hurried attempts from Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield spoiled what were otherwise outstanding efforts.
If there’s anything yesterday’s roller-coaster ride underscored, it’s that the Pacers can bag buckets in bunches. Head coach Rick Carlisle has wisely abandoned his elephant-walk micromanaging predilections for delegation and fast-paced action, enabling his charges to smoke the rest of the National Basketball Association when it comes to scoring. To be sure, they can also give up as much as they provide; not for nothing are they the worst in the league in points prevention.
It’s fair to argue that the Pacers have their identity down pat. If nothing else, a clear direction is Carlisle’s hallmark; seeing the talent at his disposal, he has obviously decided that more is better. And while there have been clunkers, notably a couple of anemic showings early in their 2023-24 campaign, there can be no disputing the results so far; they’re sixth in the highly competitive East, on pace to have their first winning record since the turn of the decade. Whether they can stick to their trajectory is anybody’s guess; for now, though, they’re only too willing to ride the wave and see where it takes them.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.