- One week after draining a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to drop the Lakers, Pacers rookie Andrew Nembhard put together a night against Stephen Curry and the Warriors on Monday that he won’t ever forget.
- In leading Indiana, which was playing without Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner, to a 112-104 victory, Nembhard dropped 31 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds on five 3-pointers in 41 minutes, all of which go down as early career highs.
SAN FRANCISCO — Andrew Nembhard never appeared agitated or hurried throughout his 41 minutes on the court of the most successful professional basketball team of the past decade.
When they weren’t on the court, grizzled veterans with four championship rings on their fingers exerted all the pressure they could conjure on him, but they were unable to prevent him from entering the paint and finding his spots at will. He pursued the world’s most prolific 3-point shooter at the beginning of every possession, but he rarely appeared out of place on defense, and he contributed to making that All-World player unhappy. He had nothing but a G League two-way player to give him a breather, but he came off the court looking like he could have easily played another 41 minutes. Afterwards, he spoke almost without altering his expression, as if he were talking a Saturday morning workout in a park.
Monday night at the sold-out Chase Center, what strikes out most about Nembhard’s 31-point, 13-assist performance in the Pacers’ slump-breaking 112-104 victory over the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors is how effortless he made it appear.
In reality, the rookie from Gonzaga delivered possibly the most significant individual performance by any Indiana player this season, considering the Pacers have never been in worse shape than they were on Monday night.
The game was the second night of a back-to-back, and the Pacers were coming off three consecutive losses and four losses in five games on their 37-year-long longest western road trip. Each of the four defeats was by double digits, and two were by more than 20 points, upsetting the arc of a season that had been exceeding expectations before they departed Indianapolis for seven road games in 12 days. Without possible All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton (sore groin) and backup point guard T.J. McConnell (non-COVID sickness) for the second consecutive night, the Pacers had little chance of turning the trend. Coach Rick Carlisle said just before game time that star center Myles Turner would also miss the game due to a tight hamstring.
The Pacers required a great deal from Nembhard, and he responded with the best performance of his early professional career. It was the seventh time in 19 games that he scored at least 10 points, but he nearly doubled his previous career high of 16 points.
Still, it was an entirely other challenge to carry an NBA club with no other full-time point guard available. Trevelin Queen, a two-way player for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, was added to the roster on Sunday due to McConnell’s illness. He played for 6 minutes and 42 seconds, but otherwise he ran the entire show.
Ty and Myles are definitely the leaders of our squad, according to forward Jalen Smith. “However, since they were absent, he was the one who stepped up for us. The manner in which he commanded the team and the offense revealed a great deal.”