Nobody would have blamed the Indiana Pacers if they came out flat on Saturday night.
They were without the services of their MVP-candidate point guard, Tyrese Haliburton, as he nursed an upper respiratory infection. They have Sunday off, as does every team in the league, ahead of their In-Season Tournament quarterfinal matchup on Monday against the Boston Celtics. On top of that, they were on the road facing the Miami Heat, the league's 10th-ranked defense, which makes things difficult for every opponent that comes through South Beach. If anything, the Pacers' top-ranked offense definitely wouldn't be able to put on the show it normally does.
Apparently, absolutely nothing can stop the Indiana Pacers from putting a boatload of points on the board.
The Pacers looked as potent as ever, even without their best player, as they cruised to a 144-129 win over the Heat on Saturday in front of a stunned Kaseya Center crowd. Indiana shot 65.9% from the field (not a typo) and 50% from 3-point range (also not a typo), as six players reached double-digit scoring, with four eclipsing the 20-point mark. They shot 77% (!) as a team after the first quarter, while Indiana's bench went 79% (26-for-33) from the field for the game, the second-best mark in NBA history with at least 30 attempts.
The 65.9% field goal shooting percentage was the highest mark ever allowed by the Heat franchise, and the 144 points tied for the second-most ever surrendered by Miami.
Please remember they did all of this without Haliburton. He's averaging 27 points and 12 assists per game on 52/45/88 shooting splits, and just scored a career-high 44 points against the Heat on Thursday. Prior to Saturday's game, the Pacers had averaged "just" 116 points per 100 possessions with Haliburton on the bench, compared to a ridiculous 127 with him on the floor. But it obviously wasn't an issue against Miami on Saturday.
Andrew Nembhard started in place of Haliburton, but he struggled as a scorer, notching just four points on 1-for-9 shooting, though he did dish out 11 assists. The true floor general was veteran backup guard TJ McConnell, who took control of the game with 20 points and 11 assists on 10-for-11 shooting.
Bruce Brown put up a season-high 30 points to lead the team, while Obi Toppin logged one of his best all-around games, scoring 22 points on 4-of-5 3-point shooting and blocking a career-best four shots.
With the victory, Rick Carlisle now has the most NBA wins of any coach in Pacers history with 251. Bobby "Slick" Leonard has 529, but the majority of his wins came when the Pacers were in the ABA. Carlisle also showed on Saturday that his unprecedented offense is much more than just one extremely talented player.
Indiana is scoring 123.8 points per 100 possessions this season, which would shatter the all-time record of 118.6, set by the Sacramento Kings last year. The Pacers' 128.8 points per game is also on pace to break the NBA record of 126.5, held by the 1981-82 Denver Nuggets.
The Pacers improved to 10-8 with the win, and if they can remain in the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, both Carlisle and Haliburton should receive serious consideration for the highest NBA honors.