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Andrew Nembhard’s deep 3-pointer lifts Pacers to dramatic Game 3 win over Knicks

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INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Nembhard’s 30-plus-foot 3-pointer with 17.1 seconds left and the shot clock running down put the Indiana Pacers in the lead after a rough second half and they held on to beat the New York Knicks 111-106 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Friday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

The Pacers cut the Knicks series lead to 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Here are four observations:

Andrew Nembhard 3-pointer highlights gritty fourth quarter for Pacers

Tyrese Haliburton had nowhere to go with the ball when he was trapped at the top of the key with the game tied with 17.1 seconds to go. So he threw it to Andrew Nembhard who wasn’t in a great place either, 30 feet from the rim with no time to drive. But Nembhard pulled up from there and heaved a shot and drilled it, giving the Pacers a 109-106 lead after they’d trailed by as many as nine points in the second half. Nembhard scored all five of his points in the game’s final two minutes.

That lead held up as Jalen Brunson missed a 3-pointer that could have tied the game, Aaron Nesmith grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws to essentially clinch the game.

The Pacers had been outscored 32-22 and lost what had been a 12-point lead, but they rallied to win the fourth quarter 26-16, with numerous critical defensive stops at key moments to pull off the win.

Tyrese Haliburton regains old form

After the Pacers’ Game 1 loss in New York, Tyrese Haliburton said he didn’t feel like himself. He scored just six points and took just six shots, including one attempt in a scoreless second half. He said then he would be better, and he was for Game 2 and then even better for Game 3.

Haliburton has rediscovered his outside shot in the playoffs and he was much bolder than he has been in terms of getting to the rim. He cracked double figures by the end of the first quarter, scoring 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting, including 2 of 6 from 3-point range. In the second he went off even more, scoring 13 points to enter the half with 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range.

Haliburton again had a harder time getting rolling in the second half, but he finished with 35 points on 14 of 26 shooting, including 6 of 16 from 3-point range with seven assists.

Pacers switch Aaron Nesmith on to Jalen Brunson, see improvement

Nembhard and Nesmith, the Pacers’ 24-year-old defensive aces, always draw the toughest two defensive assignments on the board. Nembhard tends to get ball-handlers and Nesmith tends to take on bigger wings, but they have switched before.

Nembhard guarded Knicks All-Star guard Jalen Brunson in Games 1 and 2 and didn’t have great results, so Pacers coach Rick Carlisle moved Nesmith on to Brunson for Game 3. It was still a tough assignment, but Nesmith had at least a little more success.

Brunson scored just two points in the first quarter on 1 of 5 shooting. In the second he started to find it with 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting, but Nesmith was in his face, fighting through screens and parrying his twists and turns and pivots in the lane.

Brunson still scored 26 points but was 10 of 26 from the field.

Myles Turner and Pascal Siakam were better

The Pacers starting 4 and 5 men had brutal performances in Game 2. All-Star forward Pascal Siakam scored 14 points but was 7 of 18 from the floor and 2 of 10 in the second half. Stalwart center Myles Turner had a brutal evening all around, making just 3 of 11 shots for six points.

In Game 3, both players performed a lot closer to their usual standards.

Siakam benefitted from the fact that Knicks All-Defensive team forward O.G. Anunoby, his long-time teammate in Toronto, was out with a hamstring strain. Siakam got to take advantage of his other former teammate, Precious Achiuwa, for much of the game and got more of a rhythm with his usual arsenal of spin moves to the rim, turnaround jumpers and fadeaways. He finished with 26 points on 9 of 14 shooting.

Turner, meanwhile, provided the necessary production Haliburton needs in a ball screen partner, scoring 21 points on 7 of 13 shooting, including 2 of 5 from 3-point range. He used his outside shooting to help him with his dribble drive game, utilizing shot fakes to get defenders to fly by him to give him a chance to get to the rim. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and had three blocks, including a critical one in transition in the fourth quarter.

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