The Indiana Pacers were unsurprisingly sluggish to start their latest preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers with poor shooting, rebounding issues, and some early turnovers, but were able to settle into a groove, at least defensively, to hold the Cavs under 35% shooting for much of the first half. Offensively, the Pacers were generally a mess, unable to break through a 2-6 point wall despite living at the free throw line in third quarter.
They finally broke through on a Paul George to Luis Scola layup that the Pacers used to rattle off a 30-6 run into the fourth quarter to put the game away. There was a sense, or a hope anyway, that the Pacers simply needed to break through into the lead to take control of the game, and they took full advantage of it once they did. It was the bench that broke the game open in the fourth quarter, with Scola, C.J. Watson, and Lance Stephenson leading the charge.
Another night of extensive foul calls (67 in all) led to another night where the Pacers had a chance to make a statement from the free throw line, but despite shooting 25 free throws in the third quarter alone, the team went just 15-25 as part of a 28-42 night. That wasn't the only ugly stat in Indiana's win as the Pacers were massacred on the board 55-39 with Cleveland pulling down 17 offensive rebounds to Indiana's four.
Even though they allowed 17 boards, the Pacers did a solid job inside to keep Cleveland away from easy points, surrendering just 18 points in the paint. Indiana also had five early turnovers, but wrapped up the night with just 13. The assists were up again tonight, with Indiana dishing 25 assists on 34 field goals, a healthy distribution with no one over four.
There were a number of areas the Pacers improved on tonight, and the strong close to the game helped ease a lot of early concerns, but it's hard to shake that the Pacers look an awful lot like the team they were last year a little too often. The way the games have been called in the preseason no doubt plays a part in that, with Indiana unable to be as physical a team as they were last year. But while even last year's bench had some nights where they scored a lot of points, there's hope that this year's version will do what they did tonight more consistently.
The bench had three double figure scorers, led by Chris Copeland with 15. Copeland struggled defensively, and also struggled with his three point shooting at 3-11, but was able to pile on the points with his opportunity. Scola and Watson were more efficient, scoring 13 and 14 respectively, Scola looking more like the player they expected to have and Watson breaking out of a bit of a slump to hit shots down the stretch. Solomon Hill had a solid game as well, scoring six, rebounding four, dropping four dimes, and even coming up with a pair of steals. It created a great bench environment with Stephenson getting late burn as part of his efficient 13 on 5-6 shooting.
David West and Paul George got a bulk of the starter minutes, West leading the way for the Pacers for much of the game, scoring a game high 20 with 14 free throws to his credit. George was a bit in and out of the game, scoring just nine, but leading the team in rebounds, assists, and steals, he offered up plenty of extra play despite another four turnovers on his watch.
While wins and losses in the preseason are worthless, but it's nice to at least see the Pacers grab a win in exhibition play if only to not see a big fat zero in the W column. Tomorrow in Indy is the Pacers Fan Jam from 2-5, perfectly timed leading up to tomorrow night's football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indiana will move forward on the court when they travel to Atlanta to play the Hawks on Tuesday. It'll be the first of two preseason games Frank Vogel will be using regular season rotations as the regular season is just nine days away.