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.
Those numbers put Nembhard in some pretty elite company.
Meanwhile, Curry had his worst game of the season, finishing with 12 points on 3-of-17 shooting, including 2-of-10 from 3. It’s not often that Curry gets upstaged like that by anyone, let alone a relatively obscure rookie starting just his 10th game.
The look on Curry’s face after Nembhard hit one of his two fourth-quarter step-back 3s says it all.
Indeed, it was one of those nights for Nembhard. Don’t get it twisted, it’s not completely out of nowhere. The guy can play. He has scored in double figures in four of his past five games. He’s shooting better than 40 percent from 3 for the season. He’s solid with the ball and a fantastic passer. Rick Carlisle doesn’t just hand out 25 minutes a game to rookies, and Nembhard, with TJ McConnell out recently and Haliburton the last two, has logged 35-plus in the last three. Still, this was a night he will have a hard time replicating any time soon, if ever.
He did everything for the Pacers, who put the ball in his hands down the stretch as though he were a superstar. And he delivered. Here Curry fights over the screen to keep Nembhard from pulling up for yet another 3, so he casually works his way downhill with Curry attached to his hip before dropping a 10-foot bank shot.
Watch the Warriors double-team Nembhard at half court, only for him to pass out of it, create a man-up advantage, get it back, beat Jonathan Kuminga into the paint, draw the help, and deliver the alley-oop assist.
Step-back 3s, tough runners in the paint, exploiting double teams — these are the things we’re used to seeing Curry do. But Monday was Nembhard’s night to show out and show up one of the best to ever do it.
3 takeaways as Andrew Nembhard dominates and Indiana Pacers get much-needed win over Golden State Warriors
Last Monday, Indiana Pacers rookie guard Andrew Nembhard hit a buzzer-beating three-point shot over LeBron James to help the Pacers beat the Los Angeles Lakers. One Monday later, with the Pacers taking on the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, Nembhard was even better.
Indiana started Nembhard at the point guard spot with Tyrese Haliburton injured and T.J. McConnell under the weather. Nembhard started on Sunday night as well under the same circumstances and finished with 16 points and eight assists.
On Monday, against the reigning NBA Champions, Nembhard finished with 31 points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds. All three of those numbers are a career high for the rookie. He also defended two-time MVP Stephen Curry at a high level and held him to 12 points on 3/17 shooting. It was Nembhard’s best game since joining the NBA ranks, and the blue and gold were a +16 with him on the floor.
“This guy has got amazing poise,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said of Nembhard after the game. “He’s strong, he’s old school but new school. He’s special.”
Nembhard has had an impressive road trip for the blue and gold, averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 assists per game across five games. Without him, the Pacers likely don’t have a single win on their current trek out West.
On top of Haliburton and McConnell, Myles Turner, Daniel Theis, Chris Duarte, and James Johnson were also out for Indiana’s game against Golden State. Carlisle had to use a funky rotation with only 11 players available. But it worked out as the Pacers won 112-104 and improved to 13-11. They are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference standings.
“Resilient group we have, and they’ve been like this all year,” Carlisle said after the game. There are some key takeaways for the Pacers after a much-needed win.
Andrew Nembhard needs more reps at point guard.
When Indiana is fully healthy, Nembhard starts at the small forward spot. That allows him to play and get plenty of playing time, but most of his offensive reps are off ball in those instances. He still succeeds in those moments thanks to his outside shot, but he needs more opportunities to make plays with the ball in this hands.
McConnell may need to play fewer minutes per game upon his return from illness. That way, Nembhard can continue to grow and improve as a floor general, where he is clearly very talented. He’s had two double doubles in the Pacers last three games, and his calmness makes his teammates better.
Haliburton is worthy of heavy playing time at the lead ball handler spot, so it may take some creativity to get Nembhard enough reps at the one. But Carlisle has to find a way given how impressive the 31st overall pick has looked recently.
Everybody stepped up.
The Pacers could not have upset the Warriors without a total team effort, and everybody was important in the victory.
Beyond Nembhard, Indiana got a career night out of Kendall Brown, the 48th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He hasn’t played much this season, but he gave Carlise a crucial 18 minutes on Monday night. He finished with three points, five rebounds, and two assists. It was his best game, and most minutes, as a pro.
Trevelin Queen got playing time for the second straight game. Jalen Smith nearly had a double double with 15 points and nine rebounds. Buddy Hield drilled some key threes while Bennedict Mathurin, in his first career start, got to the foul line eight times. Oshae Brissett and Isaiah Jackson shot the ball well.
Everyone who suited up for the Pacers did their job and had a solid night. That was a necessity for the blue and gold to pull off the upset, and they did.
The Pacers finally started strong.
Indiana was forced to play a drastically altered starting lineup in this game, and it was effective. The Pacers were up 34-21 at the end of the first quarter, marking just the fourth time in the entire season that the blue and gold were ahead after one frame.
The prior three times weren’t as impressive. They led by eight points after the first quarter once and led by two twice. This start against Golden State was their best of the year and first lead of 10+ points after one quarter. It set the tone for the night.
With few resources available, Carlisle started Nembhard, Mathurin, Hield, Aaron Nesmith, and Smith. That lineup was a +6 in over ten minutes of action. Said group may not work every game, but it certainly did on Monday, and the Pacers needed it.
Indiana will finish their seven-game road trip in Minnesota on Wednesday night when they battle the Timberwolves