Pacers overcome 22-point deficit to capture coach Nate McMillan’s 500th win

Coach McMillan has a conversation with his leader on the floor, Jeff Teague. [Photo: Frank McGrath]

Nate McMillan needed to keep it real with his team at halftime. They had just played a very poor first half. They had allowed the Sacramento Kings (16-25), losers in five of their last six games, to shoot 64 percent from the field and score 60 points.

It was 60-41 after two quarters of play.

“We was playing in the first half like we were scared of them, like we was afraid, like we weren’t men, too,” veteran center Al Jefferson shared McMillan’s message to FOX Sports Indiana’s Jeremiah Johnson after the game. “And I think that got to us. … We just got a backbone and started to play together.”

That they did.

The Pacers rallied back from a 19-point hole in the second half and controlled the final quarters to open their three-game road trip with a 106-100 victory.

(The game ended at 1:00 pm ET, so you may be waking up and reading this … surprised to see the Pacers changed course and edged out a win.)

And it was a memorable one to Pacers head coach Nate McMillan. It’s his 500th career win, joining three other active coaches — Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, and Rick Carlisle — with at least 500 wins.

His career record is 500-471 (.515) over 13 seasons.

[Podcast with McMillan after getting hired]

The script flipped in the second half, after McMillan kept it real with his team in the locker room and longtime Pacers assistant Dan Burke provided the line of the season.

“It looked like some of the London game kind of snuck into this game, some of the FanJam snuck into this game. We’re not playing any [defense],” Burke said, adding that he didn’t see any sense of urgency in the first 24 minutes.

First, we saw the team muster up multiple runs. They outscored the Kings 30-19 in the third period after managing 21 and 20 points, respectively, in the first two. Al Jefferson, who contributed with great ease, posted a season-high 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Six points came in the fourth quarter.

Paul George locked in and scored 17 of his 24 points in the second half as he played every second.

The Pacers saw their field goal percentage balloon from 42 to 65 percent, while the Kings’ fell from 64 to 33 percent. They forced 10 turnovers, resulting in 12 points, and boy did they score on the run.

Indiana ran off 22 fast break points in the final half while keeping Sacramento to a big donut. 22-0.

Beyond offensive efficiencies, the key tale that changed was at the center spot. DeMarcus Cousins, who recorded his first triple-double of the season with 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists, was flat-out dominant in the first half. He was responsible for 19-10-5 in 18 minutes.

Then second-year center Myles Turner outshined Cousins, who didn’t have a second-half field goal going 0-for-9. Turner, who was relentless and didn’t back down to a dominant player, scored 14 of his 16 points in the final two quarters and outscored Cousins 14-6.

Al Jefferson was kept to less than five minutes and McMillan didn’t play Kevin Seraphin in the second half. That’s because Turner was having his way, with much better assistance from his teammates.

Joining George (24 points) and Jefferson (20) in double figures was Jeff Teague, who yet again flirted with a triple-double: 22 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds.

The Pacers win snapped a four-game losing streak to the Kings, who had swept the season series in each of the last two years. This was the Pacers’ first visit to the Golden 1 Center, the Kings’ new $550 million arena.

And for the sixth time in seven games Indiana made at least half of its field goals, shooting 52 percent.

This marks the halfway point of the season. The Pacers are 22-19, just as they were through 41 games last season. Team President Larry Bird wanted to see his team score more points, between 105 and 107 points per game. They’re averaging 105.8, up from 102.2 last year.

Having won seven of their last eight games, their Global Games content in London being the exception, the Pacers are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference standings and just 1.5 games out of fourth.

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