5 reasons Caris LeVert, Myles Turner powered the shorthanded Pacers past the Rockets

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  • Myles Turner
    Myles Turner
    American basketball player
  • Caris LeVert
    Caris LeVert
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  • Malcolm Brogdon
    Malcolm Brogdon
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  • Domantas Sabonis
    Domantas Sabonis
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  • Chris Duarte
    Chris Duarte
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INDIANAPOLIS – Pacers point guard Malcolm Brogdon was held out with a sore right Achilles and two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis was a late scratch due to a right calf injury Thursday night against the Rockets at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Rookie Chris Duarte and Oshae Brissett replaced Brogdon and Sabonis in the starting lineup, but it was Caris LeVert and Myles Turner who stepped up the most in their absence.

LeVert orchestrated Indiana’s offense and Myles Turner had one of his best games of the season to help Indiana clinch an early Christmas present with a 118-106 win over Houston. Here’s what stood out:

Dec 23, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert (22) and Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) go for a loose ball in the first quarter at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert (22) and Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) go for a loose ball in the first quarter at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Caris LeVert distributes the ball

LeVert, who is normally a shooting guard, shouldered most of the point guard duties with Brogdon sidelined and the transition looked seamless. The sixth-year NBA veteran totaled seven of his season-high 11 assists in the first quarter.

LeVert also had 24 points, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter, and added eight rebounds.

"Caris has obviously proven that he's a helluva starting point guard, along with being a helluva of starting (shooting) guard," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "We're hoping that this thing with Malcolm and Domas is not a long-term thing and that we can get back to being more in tact sooner than later."

More: Pacers Domantas Sabonis (calf), Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles) out with injuries vs. Rockets

Myles Turner’s big night

Outside of a 40-point performance against the Wizards in October, Turner had his biggest offensive performance of the season. He totaled 17 of his 32 points in the first half and shot 14-of-18 from the field.

Turner also grabbed 10 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season and extended his league lead in blocks with back-to-back rejections in the fourth quarter. He erased a fast-break left-handed layup by Rockets rookie Jalen Green at the 7:37 mark of the frame and viciously denied Alperen Sengun at the rim on the very next play.

"I think I'm the greatest shot blocker in the world," Turner said. "I've always held true to that. That's something that I wear with pride. And yeah, it was a block, but it was also a momentum shifter, and I think that's what's important, especially when you're here at home."

Stifling zone defense

Indiana trailed 94-91 heading into the fourth quarter on Thursday night and had lost every game this season — 0-12 — when entering the last frame from behind. The Pacers finally got over that hump by playing stifling zone defense against the Rockets and limiting them to 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting in the final 12 minutes.

Carlisle credited assistant Lloyd Pierce with the decision to switch defenses.

"We had gotten away from zone for accountability reasons defensively," Carlisle said. "But we knew coming into this game that this is something that you can do to disrupt rhythm at times and (Houston) is a rhythm team."

Jalen Green cools off

Green, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, returned from a left hamstring strain and got off to a hot start by scoring his first 12 points on four 3-pointers. He added two more 3s in the third quarter but was held scoreless in the last period.

Green totaled 20 points and Christian Wood, who also went scoreless in the fourth quarter, scored a team-high 22 points.

Former North Central standout and 2007 IndyStar Mr. Basketball Eric Gordon had 15 points, five assists and three steals.

Chris Duarte, Jeremy Lamb provide boost

Duarte scored in double figures and made at least two 3s for the fourth straight game. He had 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting with three 3-pointers.

Jeremy Lamb tied Duarte for the team high with three 3s and finished with 16 points in 23 minutes off the bench.

"I don't know how much I'm gonna play (from game to game), but when I do play I want to help the team win," Lamb said. "So whether I play five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, I just try to make plays on both ends of the floor and make shots."

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Pacers vs. Rockets: Caris LeVert, Myles Turner power shorthanded Indiana

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