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Buddy Hield, Pacers take aim at Trail Blazers

Jan 2, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield (24) dribbles the ball in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers aim to continue their winning ways at home on Friday when they host the Portland Trail Blazers at Indianapolis.

After the Pacers completed a perfect four-game homestand Monday, they nearly overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter before dropping a 129-126 overtime decision at Philadelphia on Wednesday.

“We just need to get stronger from this,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “Growth in life and in the NBA seldom happens without some real adversity, and some real trauma, and so we’ve got to learn from some of the things that happened and build on some of the good things we did, especially down the stretch.”

Indiana’s Buddy Hield highlighted his 24-point performance by draining six 3-pointers, marking a career-high-tying seventh straight game that he has made at least four from beyond the arc. Hield leads the NBA with 152 made 3-pointers entering play on Thursday.

“We need to do a better job of closing,” Hield said. “It’s on us — everybody. It’s not Ty (Tyrese Haliburton), Drew (Andrew Nembhard) or Benn (Bennedict Mathurin), it’s on everybody.”

In fairness, those players did quite well for themselves on Wednesday. Mathurin scored 19 points, Haliburton collected 16 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, and Nembhard added 12 points.

“We’ve been good in clutch games as of late. We weren’t able to pull this one out (and) it’s frustrating because you feel like you leave this one on the table,” Haliburton said. “But we play again (on Friday) against Portland. (We) just need to be ready.”

The Trail Blazers were ready for the Pacers in the teams’ previous encounter on Dec. 4. Jerami Grant scored 28 points and Damian Lillard added 21 in his first game in over two weeks due to a calf strain.

While Portland was victorious on that night, it has lost five of its last seven games overall. The Trail Blazers began their three-game road trip with a 113-106 setback to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

“I think we’re just really inconsistent right now,” Lillard said. “Not only from game to game but from quarter to quarter. We’re just not able to sustain that level of focus, that level of urgency, the energy.”

Lillard scored 27 points and Grant added 26, despite being hobbled with a left quad contusion.

Those performances notwithstanding, Portland coach Chauncey Billups took issue with the team’s approach right out of the chute. The Trail Blazers committed 18 turnovers that led to 22 points by the Timberwolves.

“I was never really happy from the start of the game,” Billups said. “Our mindset from the very start wasn’t right. It just wasn’t right. That’s our inconsistency. Sometimes, we come out with the right type of mindset, set the tone, be the aggressor on both sides of the floor. When we don’t, you come back and you want to counterpunch, you put yourself in a tough spot.”

Indiana’s Myles Turner recorded 24 points and nine rebounds, while Hield contributed 22 points in the loss to Portland last month. Haliburton missed that game due to a groin injury.

–Field Level Media