INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Pascal Siakam had 24 points and 11 rebounds, Tyrese Haliburton added 17 points and 13 assists - four on late consecutive possessions - and the Indiana Pacers beat the New Orleans Pelicans 123-114 on Wednesday night.

The teams will complete the home-and-home set Friday night in New Orleans.

“It’s a massively important win,” said Indiana coach Rick Carlisle, alluding to his team’s 34-26 record with 22 games to play. “This time of year, each game has such great meaning.”

Brandon Ingram had 30 points and six rebounds for the Pelicans, who lost for the third time in their past four games. CJ McCollum added 23 points and six rebounds and Zion Williamson also scored 23 points.

Once behind by 20, New Orleans crept within three before Haliburton took over in crunch time. His stepback 3-pointer from the right wing extended the lead to 115-109 with 2:56 to play. Haliburton then assisted on three consecutive baskets by Siakam in the lane, the last a fast-break dunk that put New Orleans behind 121-111 with 1:17 to go, before finding Myles Turner for another basket in the final minute.

“I knew he’s a pass-first kind of guy,” Siakam said about Haliburton, the NBA’ assists leader. “With the gravity that he has on offense, I’m just trying to make the right reads, the right cuts, and I know the ball is going to find me. We’ve got something special. I’m happy to be on the same team.”

Turner finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, who shot 49% from the field and made 14 3-pointers. Obi Toppin added 16 points and six rebounds, Bennedict Mathurin scored 16 points, and T.J. McConnell had eight points and nine assists.

Indiana seized control early, finishing a dominant first quarter with a 40-24 advantage. McConnell’s unchallenged learner in the lane pushed the gap to 44-24 and prompted a timeout by New Orleans coach Wille Green early in the second period.

Mixing in some zone defense, the Pelicans slowed Indiana’s scoring over the next 10 minutes and cut the deficit to 64-53 at halftime. A 10-point third quarter from Mathurin helped the Pacers carry a 96-86 lead to the fourth.

“Extremely proud of our group under the circumstances,” Green said. “This was an extremely tough game. For us to get down 20 and battle back against a really good team, this was a growth moment.”

Indiana played without starting wing Aaron Nesmith (sprained right ankle) and reserve forward Doug McDermott (sprained right calf).

Dyson Daniels, one of New Orleans’ top perimeter defenders who was tied for 13th in the league in steals per game, missed his eighth straight because of a meniscus tear. Starting center Jonas Valanciunas, averaging 13.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, played only seven minutes and did not score.

“We knew we were going to have to go small,” Green said. “It allows you to stay in front of them defensively. (Sitting Valanciunas) was the adjustment for us.”



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