SAN FRANCISCO — The Pacers weren't supposed to be in the game, and fittingly, a lot of them weren't. Indiana was without all five of its projected starters for the 2021-22 season when it faced Golden State on the second night of a back-to-back Thursday. The absence of two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis (left ankle sprain), league-leading shot blocker Myles Turner (stress reaction in left foot), point guard Malcolm Brogdon (sore right Achilles), shooting guard Caris LeVert (sore right calf) and swingman T.J. Warren, who has not played this season due to a left foot fracture, made the Pacers 16.5-point underdogs at Chase Center.
Indiana wasn't interested in holding the spread.
Despite being significantly undermanned, the Pacers rallied together to stun Steph Curry and the Warriors with a 121-117 overtime win on TNT. The youngest of Indiana's reserves, 20-year-old rookie Isaiah Jackson, had the best game of his NBA career and was involved in the biggest play of the night.
With Indiana trailing 110-107, Jackson delivered a pinpoint pass to Justin Holiday who drained the game-tying 3-pointer with 6.0 seconds left in regulation.
"Once I got it in my hands, I was gonna do something with it. Go the other way and do something with it. ... I seen Justin cut with his hand (up) and I just threw it to him. I knew it was going in just off the way that it looked. I had confidence that he was gonna knock it down."
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 21, 2022
Holiday's clutch shot helped the Pacers trade in what would've been a great moral victory for a real one. One night after LeVert scored a regular-season franchise record 22 points in the fourth quarter of a win against the Lakers, the Pacers carried on without him and earned back-to-back victories for the first time in more than a month.
"I feel like we just got a lot of heart," Jackson said of the bench unit. "Time and time again, coach has kept repeating it like, 'Wait your time. Your time's gonna come,' and we knew our time was gonna come after we found out that everybody was out, and we stepped up. That shows that we have a lot of just fight, grit and toughness. Just to come out here and play our game, not be scared, not be scared of the crowd.
"Just coming out here and just hoopin’."
Jackson finished the night with 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals, all career highs, and threw down a series of highlight-reel alley-oop dunks. Fellow rookie Chris Duarte also had a noteworthy outing, tying his career high with 27 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He shot 10-for-16 from the field, 2-for-3 on 3-pointers and 5-for-5 at the free-throw line.
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 21, 2022
Goga Bitadze added 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists before being ejected with 6:44 left in the game. The third-year center lost his cool after being dunked on by Gary Payton II, which was perhaps the Pacers' only blemish of the night.
"It's a big, big win for us," Duarte said. "Golden State is a great team. They got two of the best players (Curry and Klay Thompson), two of the best shooters that you ever seen in this game. So I think us coming out with a win, it's a huge win for us."
Duarte described his undermanned team as "hungry," and no one may be hungrier than 28-year-old rookie guard Keifer Sykes.
Unlike Duarte, Bitadze and Jackson, who were all first-round draft picks, Sykes went undrafted out of Wisconsin Green-Bay in 2015. The 5-11 guard, who spent several years overseas before finally making his NBA debut last month, scored five of his 10 points in overtime. Tied at 115, Sykes drilled a deep 3 over the outstretched arm of Juan Toscano-Anderson to give Indiana the lead with 1:41 left in the extra period, and he followed that up with a driving layup on the next play.
Carlisle said he's inspired by Sykes' unwavering belief in himself, which came in handy on a night when not many believed in Sykes or the rest of the Pacers.
"The last couple games, we're showing signs of being a team that people don't want to play, with a real resilience and a real collective will," Carlisle said. "I'm just real happy for them. Guys that made some great individual plays, Keifer was tremendous down the stretch, Justin's shot at the end of regulation was obviously huge, and a lot of other guys stepped up. So what can you say? It's a great night for us."
Curry poured in a game-high 39 points but went scoreless in overtime. He missed an open 3 that would've tied the game with 16.5 seconds remaining in the extra frame, which allowed Indiana to escape with a dramatic victory in front of Golden State's 400th consecutive sold out crowd.
"I was praying the whole game," Duarte said, laughing. "Just hoping that we could get the win, and we got lucky that Steph Curry missed a shot."
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Pacers reserves upset Steph Curry, Warriors in OT