The Golden State Warriors get an opportunity to avenge one of their rare home defeats this season when they visit the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in Indianapolis.
The Warriors had won 10 in a row at home before the Pacers, on the sixth game of a road trip and the second night of a back-to-back, improbably stunned the defending champs 112-104 on a remarkable night by rookie Andrew Nembhard.
The first pick of the second round in June’s draft, Nembhard was so good against the Warriors that he earned mention alongside two of the NBA’s all-time greats, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson.
The Florida/Gonzaga product dominated the game with 31 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds — 13 more points, three more assists and two more rebounds than he’d had in any of his previous 18 NBA games.
Only six other rookies in league history have had a 31/13/8 game. Robertson and Jordan are on that list, which also includes Kevin Johnson, Steve Francis and Steph Curry.
Nembhard has totaled just 33 points, 16 rebounds and 14 assists in four games since, with the Pacers having dropped three of the four. Two of those defeats, including an 87-82 setback against the Miami Heat on Monday, have come in three games since returning home from their seven-game Western trek.
The 82-point output against the Heat was about as unlikely as Nembhard’s earlier explosion against the Warriors. The Pacers had increased their shooting percentage in each of their previous six outings, going from 40 percent to 55.3 percent in the process, before plummeting to 35.4 percent against the Heat.
The poster boy for Indiana’s poor offensive showing was the usually reliable Tyrese Haliburton, who scored one point in 33 minutes, missing all nine of his shots and all six of his 3-point attempts.
“This is probably the worst game I’ve seen Tyrese play my whole career,” said Buddy Hield, who was involved in the same trade from Sacramento to Indiana as Haliburton in February. “Watched his whole career. I was telling him: ‘This is your first (bad game); I’ve had like 20.'”
With Haliburton out with an injury, Hield played the role of Nembhard’s supporting cast in the earlier win over the Warriors with 17 points.
The Warriors shot just 40.4 percent in that loss and were even worse (40 percent) in Tuesday’s loss at Milwaukee.
With Andrew Wiggins missing a fourth straight game (he’s expected to make it five in a row Wednesday), Golden State coach Steve Kerr chose to point to a disparity in free throws — which prompted five technical fouls — as his club’s chief problem against the Bucks.
“It’s basically the difference in the game,” Kerr said. “At halftime, it was a 10-point game (actually 12) and they had 10 more free throws than us.
“The free throws are a killer. I say it all the time: It’s not just two points for the other team, but then we have to go against a set defense. It’s been an issue all season.”
A steady parade to the foul line would seem to be on Wednesday’s menu. Golden State has allowed more free throws than any other team in the NBA this season. The Pacers have given up the second-most.
–Field Level Media