The Indiana Pacers stayed in their lane, leaned on what they do best both individually and collectively to put away the Orlando Magic on opening. If trying to describe the Pacers play as that of contenders, pretenders or champs, I'd have to go with contenders for game one.
They certainly didn't look like champs throughout big chunks of the first half, but eventually took care of business with continual defensive effort until everything started flowing in the right direction in the second half. The stars stood out as expected with Paul George dropping 24 points on 16 shots. David West blocked five shots to supplement his 13 points. Roy Hibbert left the offense to others while defending the rim with seven blocks and grabbing 16 rebounds.
Lance Stephenson was huge, and if this is his "lane" among the Pacers, we are in for a treat. Stephenson had an efficient night with 19 points on 8-12 shooting with five assists and seven rebounds. George Hill didn't have much of a stat line but when everyone else is doing their job, someone has to give up numbers and instead stay out of the way. No doubt, GHill would like to have a couple of open 3-balls back, but he remains part of a starting unit that picked up where they left off last season as uber-efficient with the ability to suffocate opponents.
The bench was real shaky during their first rotation, not only joining the turnover party but also losing sight of Andrew Nicholson who drained 8 of 9 shots in the first half to score 18 points. The Pacers shut out Nicholson in the second half and the bench sparked a big run to begin the fourth quarter and put away the Magic. Orlando Johnson seized his opportunity to join the playing rotation and may never let go, while Luis Scola already looks quite comfortable in the blue and gold.
One reserve who did not see the floor was Chris Copeland. The Pacers offseason acquisition didn't exactly inspire confidence with his shooting in the preseason so he will have to wait for matchups and game situations that call for a shooter before getting an opportunity to contribute. Then once on the floor, he needs to cash in some threes.
Roy Hibbert sent a scare through the Fieldhouse and beyond when he sprawled out on the court grabbing his knee in the fourth quarter. After limping off the court, Hibbert didn't return to the game but Frank Vogel assured everyone after the game that Hibbert was going to be fine and expects to play in New Orleans. Then Hibbert took to Twitter to confirm his status.
I'm all good people. Nothing to be nervous about. Can't wait to get on the court tomorrow and compete. Appreciate the love and support!— Roy Hibbert (@Hoya2aPacer) October 30, 2013
The Pacers return to action in New Orleans on Wednesday night when they face another young team looking to come together as a team. The Pelicans are much further along in their rebuilding process with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday leading a talented young group that still includes Eric Gordon. The 'Cans will certainly be fired up for their home opener, so the Pacers will have to show up ready to play more like champs.
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