Andrew Nembhard and Bennedict Mathurin showed growth that was praised by Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle last week.
With star guard Tyrese Haliburton injured and unable to run the Pacers’ offense, the NBA’s top-ranked offense, Nembhard, of Aurora, Ont., stepped in, averaging 18.0 points and 8.0 assists decisive performances while starting the team’s four home matches.
Indiana fell to Denver on Jan. 23 before reeling off three straight wins to improve to 27-20 and maintain the sixth seed in a competitive Eastern Conference.
“(Nembhard) made some key plays again down the stretch,” Carlisle said after Sunday’s win over Memphis. “His numbers don’t look too gaudy, 16 (points) and nine (assists), those are good numbers…he was tough defensively all game.
“Those are situations you don’t want to be in, but when you are, you have to understand them. And he’s been great.”
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Andrew Nembhard | against Phoenix
Nembhard was a second-round pick (31st overall) for the Pacers in 2022 and has steadily improved since his days as a pass-first guard in the NCAA ranks.
Although he has missed 14 games this season due to injury, he feels he has found more consistency and rhythm of late.
Mathurin bounced back from a slower start to the season and found more rhythm in his game as the sixth man on a young and deep Pacers team.
The 2022 first-round pick (sixth overall) is averaging 14.3 points and 25.5 minutes per game. He was around this average last week, but it was during the victory against Memphis that the Montrealer left his mark.
Mathurin, 21, scored 19 of his team’s 24 points in a first half where Indiana couldn’t find much offense outside of its budding guard.
“I thought Mathurin was great,” Carlisle said. “In the first half, when we couldn’t do anything, he made the right play every time.
“The right drive, the right pull-up (jumper), the right read. And he gave us a lot of life in the first and second quarter. He’s had tremendous growth this year with those things.”
Nembhard shared a similar sentiment.
“He took the pressure off us, he was super aggressive on the runs, especially in the first half,” he said of Mathurin. “He drew fouls and made easy layups. He did a good job opening the game for us on that end of the court.”
For Mathurin, it was all about keeping the game simple.
Haliburton, selected as an All-Star starter this season, has rightfully deserved much of the attention Indiana has received, as has a recent trade with Toronto for All-Star forward Pascal Siakam.
However, Mathurin believes that the group showed its depth and what the other members of the team are capable of.
“I feel like we have a lot of guys on our team that (are) capable of getting 24 (points), that (are) capable of getting 22 (points)… just really a group of guys capable of taking over the game,” he said.
“The last game against Phoenix, (Nembhard) played wonderful. I feel like we have a strong team and the ability we have to be able to finish the game.”