Rookie guard Andrew Nembhard delivered an upstaging performance against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
Nembhard, who grew up idolizing Curry, tallied a game-high 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, to go along with eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals in the Pacers’ 120-118 win.
The 20-year-old Ontario native had his breakout game in his fourth NBA start, and did it against the two-time MVP and one of the league’s all-time greats.
“It’s definitely a night I’ll never forget,” Nembhard said after the game. “Growing up, Stephen Curry was one of my favorite players, so to go out there and compete against him and have a night like this, it’s definitely a dream come true.”
Nembhard wasn’t the only Pacers rookie to have a big game against the Warriors. Second-year forward T.J. Warren also scored 23 points, and first-year guard Aaron Holiday added 15 off the bench.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Pacers and handed the Warriors their second straight loss.
“It’s a great team win,” said Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren. “I’m really proud of our guys. They competed their tails off from start to finish.”
The game was close throughout, with neither team leading by more than eight points. The Pacers appeared to be in control after a 10-0 run late in the fourth quarter gave them a 118-110 lead with 1:43 to play.
But Curry rallied the Warriors with eight straight points, including a game-tying three-pointer with 11.6 seconds left.
That set the stage for a dramatic finish, and Nembhard delivered. He calmly sank two free throws with 5.0 seconds remaining to give the Pacers the lead for good.
“I just told myself to knock them down,” Nembhard said of his late-game free throws. “I’ve been working on my free throws a lot, so I just stepped up and knocked them down.”
The Warriors had one last chance to tie or win the game, but Curry’s three-point attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.
It was a tough loss for the Warriors, but a huge win for the Pacers – and especially for Nembhard.
“I’m just happy we got the win,” Nembhard said. “I wanted to come out and compete against one of the best players in the world, and I think I did that tonight.”