Indiana is setting quite a pace in the early going — which has meant plenty of scoring for both the Pacers and their opponents.
Coach Rick Carlisle’s team is averaging an NBA-best 126 points per game while allowing 123.1. Indiana ranks second in the league in pace behind only Washington. So far this entertaining style is paying off in the standings, where the Pacers are tied for third in the Eastern Conference at 6-4.
Tyrese Haliburton leads the team in scoring at 23.8 ppg, but six other Indiana players are also averaging in double figures.
“We have to do it as a complete team,” Carlisle said recently. “Ty is our All-Star, he’s our leader, but we are a group that really heavily relies on one another.”
Indiana has missed the playoffs the past three seasons, but the Pacers are coming off a 35-47 showing that was a 10-win improvement over 2021-22. What’s stood out about this season so far isn’t so much their record but the way they’ve compiled it.
Already, the Pacers have:
1. Scored 143 points in a win over Washington to start the season, a franchise record for an opener.
2. Allowed 155 points in a 51-point loss to Boston on Nov. 1. The Celtics hadn’t scored that much in a regular-season game since 1959.
3. Scored 50 points in the third quarter but lost 125-124 to Charlotte on Nov. 4.
4. Scored 152 points in a 41-point victory over San Antonio last Monday, the 900th career win for Carlisle.
5. Allowed 54 points to Giannis Antetokounmpo but still beat Milwaukee 126-124 on Thursday night.
6. Allowed 50 points to Tyrese Maxey in a 137-126 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday night.
Indiana became only the third team in the past 60 years to allow a 50-point scorer in back-to-back games, according to Sportradar. The New York Knicks gave up 61 to Kobe Bryant and 52 to LeBron James in 2009, and the Orlando Magic allowed 60 to Kyrie Irving and 51 to Saddiq Bey in 2022.
The Pacers have to face the 76ers again Tuesday night and will try to avoid being on the wrong end of another 50-point performance. Or maybe an Indiana player will have one. The Pacers’ high-scoring ways are not just a result of playing fast. They are also second in the league in field-goal percentage and second in 3-point percentage.
Indiana gave Haliburton a max deal in the offseason that goes through 2028-29. The 23-year-old guard is playing like a franchise centerpiece, averaging an NBA-high 12.2 assists to go along with his scoring. He had 17 against Philadelphia in a losing effort.
“I thought the first half we were playing a little slow and let them control the pace of the game,” he said. “Going into the second half, we really dominated the pace and made them play up and down, which they don’t want to do as much as we do.”
Bruce Brown, signed away from defending champion Denver, is averaging 11 points and a career-high 31.1 minutes. Myles Turner is providing his usual combination of scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking, and Buddy Hield adds outside shooting off the bench.
It remains to be seen if the Pacers can stay anywhere close to the top of the conference, but if their first 10 games are any indication, it will be exciting to watch them try.
SLOW AND STEADY
In the Western Conference, it’s Houston that is off to a surprisingly fast start at 6-3, and the Rockets have done it a lot differently than Indiana.
Houston ranks next-to-last in the league in pace and is allowing just 105.8 points per game, nearly 13 fewer than last season when the Rockets lost 60 games. Houston has won six in a row, including a 128-94 drubbing of the Los Angeles Lakers and a 107-104 victory over the Nuggets.
“It gives us another, I guess, feather in our cap,” coach Ime Udoka said after the win over Denver.
Houston also held Sacramento under 100 points twice in a row during this streak.
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