In the Indiana Pacers first game of the Orlando NBA restarted season, former NC State small forward T.J. Warren erupted for a career-high 53 points in a six-point victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. The matchup was an especially crucial game for both teams, as the two teams were tied for the fifth seed in the east and Warren’s heroics gave the Pacers a one-game cushion over the Sixers as they edge towards the playoffs.
The Pacers were without all-star center/forward Domantas Sabonis, as well as former rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon and rotation staple Jeremy Lamb. Despite 76ers star Joel Embiid’s 41-point, 21-rebound game, the Pacers were able to ride Warren’s career night to the finish line.
Warren finished the night making 20 of his 29 shot attempts for a nice 69% shooting mark from the floor, as well as making nine of 12 3-pointers. Only four of Warren’s points came from the charity stripe, and he also added four rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Strong coaching from the Pacers’ Nate McMillan allowed for Indiana to take advantage of Philadelphia’s curious rotation choices, and he was able to take advantage of the fact that the Sixers were a minus-27 when Embiid was off the floor as opposed to being a plus-21 with him on.
McMillan himself is a Raleigh native and NC State alum, playing with the Wolfpack from 1984-86. McMillan has been the head coach of the Pacers since 2016, also having served as the head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics and the Portland Trail Blazers. With Indiana, McMillan has yet to miss the playoffs and has always had a knack for doing more with less, boasting a win percentage of 57 since coming to the team.
Warren’s night put him in great company, as he became just the fourth Pacers player in franchise history to put up 50 or more points, joining Reggie Miller, Jermaine O’Neal and Billy Knight. Warren also became the second NC State alum to drop 50-plus points in an NBA game all-time, the first since David Thompson dropped 73 in 1978.
Warren was originally traded to the Pacers in the summer of 2019 from the Phoenix Suns, where he spent the first five seasons of his career. In a questionable move at the time that seems even more perplexing now, the Suns dumped Warren’s salary along with three second-round draft picks in exchange for cash considerations.
With the victory, the Pacers sit just two games back of the Miami Heat for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and 3.5 back of the Boston Celtics. If the current standings hold up, the Pacers would get a highly anticipated matchup with the Heat in the first round with the two team’s sharing a rich history. Earlier this season, Heat star Jimmy Butler and Warren exchanged words in a heated game, and a first-round matchup would be exhilarating for fans.
Next up, Warren and the Pacers take on the Washington Wizards at 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 3. The game can be viewed with the NBA’s league pass.