August 13, 2022

The Indiana Pacers shone on their NBA 2K23 Summer League debut, smashing the Charlotte Hornets. The Summer Pacers have been led all the way by their starting lineup, with three rotation players from last season and their top two draft picks this summer. These starters, led by Bennedict Mathurin, resumed play from the jump, leading the Hornets by 14 points when the bench began to arrive.

Mathurin led the way with eight points in those opening minutes, including the game’s first field goal, an open three through Andrew Nembhard.

Unsurprisingly, the second unit didn’t quite have the same pop as the starters, but Duane Washington Jr. and Kendall Brown each delivered a light punch to keep the Hornets at bay. Each of their lines, with an additional triple from Bennie Boatwright, played a big part in Indiana’s second-quarter offense, given their long struggles inside the arc.

Despite shooting just 7-30 from two in the first half (7-18 from three), the Pacers managed to hold on to the lead at the break, leading 42-37 at the break following a point from Isaiah Jackson to complete the second. After a lackluster few minutes to close out the half, the starting unit came alive in the third quarter, burying the Hornets for good.

The Summer Pacers beat Charlotte 24-8 to start the quarter, posting highlight after highlight after highlight, whether it was a Nembhard steal leading to a Mathurin transition three,

an emphatic jam from Jackson, or a fumble exit from Mathurin to Chris Duarte from the backboard to Mathurin.

While Charlotte would finish the game with a 34-point fourth quarter, the Pacers’ starting lineup would keep a comeback out of reach due to their early runs in the first and third quarters. Mathurin led the way with a game-high 23 points, shooting an impressive 9-16 from the floor, though he left most of his looks short in the second quarter.

Mathurin had plenty of opportunities on his Summer League debut but never bogged down the attack to achieve his own look. He showed an ability to not only create his own shot, but did so after being assisted for his first three field goals. Two of those early assists came from Duarte, who had a relatively calm night from the floor, just 3-7 down, using a pair of three-point fouls to rack up an impressive 9-9 from the free-throw line. .

Even though Mathurin is making headlines, Duarte may have been the most impressive Pacer overall. In a perfect showcase to prove he’s too good for the Summer League, Duarte had shocked compound game for the frame, finishing with 16 points and four assists, with no turnovers.

That composure carried over to the rest of the squad to the tune of just nine turnovers on the night, a pair each of Nembhard and Fanbo Zeng, each making two interceptions for good measure. Barring some first-half rebounding issues and some misguided challenges against Charlotte’s home defense, there was little to complain about from the team’s perspective, forcing 18 turnovers.

Terry Taylor was the third double-digit starter with 11 points, starting strong in Terry Taylor fashion, after an offensive rebound with a layup. Taylor also had seven boards, leading the way with Jackson, who dropped a point from a double double with nine and 12.

Jackson struggled tonight against Charlotte’s big inside players, shooting just 3-10. He had four blocks in the first half, but Indiana could only turn one of those blocks into a change of possession, which helped the Summer Hornets climb back into the game in the second quarter, drawing 14 offensive boards for the game.

Off the bench, Washington led the way with 10 points, looking pretty good in the flow of the offense, but his isolation plays led to less than ideal results, finishing the game just 3-12 in the game. total. He led the way with six assists, including four for rookie Brown, helping open Brown’s play in the second half, finishing with nine.

The Summer Pacers played a fairly tight rotation tonight, going just 10 deep with Gabe York delivering four assists, including one to Boatwright who had nine. Zeng meanwhile finished with four, scoring twice on fantastic quick finishesbut was a real revolving door on defence, something that will need to be tightened up as the Summer League progresses.

As always, we probably shouldn’t get anything concrete from these games, although it was heartening to see everyone who should have shown up. That doesn’t mean they’ll have the same success when they hit the pitch on Sunday afternoon, but for a guy like Duarte, it’s hard to believe he’ll play the entire Summer League schedule. The Pacers face the Sacramento Kings on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.