After bathing in the pools of Pacer optimism coming out of the Fieldhouse over the past couple of weeks, it was nice of the championship-caliber New Orleans Hornets to provide a crisp reality check in the form of a 105-71 preseason win over the Pacers.
Fortunately I was able to catch the bulk of the game through a free League Pass preview. Apparently, the throwback game at Pepsi Coliseum included no internet connection. During the game there were no real time box scores to be found anywhere. I'm still twitching.
As for the Pacers, since it was a preseason game there was actually some good to go along with the bad and ugly.
- First of all, Mike Dunleavy didn't play but he was the MVP. He showed up on the bench in full ABA leisure suit magnificence. Great shades, too! But not only did Dun give us a good laugh, he was also caught coaching up Brandon Rush whenever the rook was on the bench. Dun knows how to play in this system and seeing him lead the young players is a nice development.
- T.J. Ford was plenty good for a preseason opener. He had lots of game on display and his ability to score the ball is quite fun to watch.
- The turnover situation was bad and some of that credit goes to a solid defensive effort from the Hornets. The other part of the credit goes to the multiple combinations of players that have never played together in the blue and gold. Still, pros not valuing the ball bugs me.
- As bad as the turnover situation was, the shooting was flat out ugly. Defense, smeefense, 31% (23-74) and 14% (3-21) from three land is a whole lot a clankin'. Granted a few of the team's better shooters weren't playing but there were plenty of open shots that just didn't fall.
- Brandon Rush struggled early with his shot, but seemed to find it late in the game. Quinn Buckner made a nice observation of Rush, stating that he just needed to adapt to the pro game because he has all the required skill and made some moves that most guys in the league can't make.
- The team defense wasn't as horrible as the final deficit may indicate. The rotations were pretty good but the Hornets are stocked with offensive talent and certainly made it tough on the Pacers. Plus, the Hornets already played on preseason game so they were into the flow from the get go.
- Roy Hibbert was tossed in the second half for trying to clear some space with an elbow to the jaw of Melvin Ely. Although it wasn't a smart play, I certainly didn't mind seeing Hibbert tossed. Love that the big fella doesn't mind the contact. What I loved even more was when Ely tried to come at Roy (after Ely knew he was held back and couldn't get to him), the big rook simply brushed him off and never changed his expression.
- Jeff Foster will no doubt ride Hibbert for getting tossed and forcing Foster to play more minutes than expected.
- Stacy Paetz was in mid-season form and bringin' it at an All-Star level.
- Back to those pesky turnovers for a moment. Jarrett Jack had more than his fair share, with 8 hiccups. Since I refuse to pass judgment after one game, I going to ignore my inclination to expect Jack to thrill me one night and drive me nuts the next.
- The preseason this year is not meaningless for the Pacers. The results? Yes, meaningless. But the games are vital because this team needs as many minutes as they can find to play together under game conditions. This game against a stout Hornets team offered the coaches plenty of teaching moments with areas of play that need to be tightened up. Taking care of the ball and making a few shots will go a long way to improved results, but delivering those results on a consistent basis will take a lot of work for this team. We'll be looking for some improvement on Friday night in Fort Wayne.