Much like last season, the Indiana Pacers lost their preseason opener by losing the third quarter badly.
After taking a 43-41 lead to the break and showing some of the fruits of their defensive labor, the Pacers offered the Bulls a bundle of turnovers which no defense could prevent turning into a huge run by the visitors. The Bulls held on from their to secure the 104-95 win over the Pacers.
So there was some good defense, some bad defense, some exciting offense, some embarrassing offense. All in all, Jim O'Brien left the game quite pleased to have a lot of positive and negative reinforcement opportunities on tape to teach his players.
Really, there isn't much about the actual game that merits analysis other than the individual work of the players, but there is one story-line that is worth following.
Roy Hibbert did not start tonight, giving way to newcomer Solomon Jones. Officially, Jeff Foster started at center, but this was about the center position. Jones earned the start ahead of Hibbert and then showed why with his play. Solo looked quite comfortable with the starting unit and produced at both ends of the floor.
Considering I had no idea what to expect from Jones, I was surprised to hear he was starting and even more surprised that he showed why early in the game. Jones finished the game with 11 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in 25 minutes. He was able to get to the line and also showed the ability to hit the 12-15 foot shot from around the free throw line. Very nice debut for the big fella in front of the home fans.
Hibbert, on the other hand, struggled when he entered the game, picking up three first half fouls. The second two were iffy, but there's no doubt he was a step late to the party on each play which made the calls reasonable. To his credit, Hibbert started the second half and immediately scored a couple of low-post buckets. But then again, he was at the scene of the crime when the Bulls went on their big third-quarter run.
After the game, JOB mentioned Roy was also at a disadvantage because he excels in the low post but the team hasn't put in much low post offense at this point. Still, considering the affable Hibbert was long gone when the locker room opened up to the media, there's no doubt he's feeling the heat.
This was the best news of the night for me. A team with solid guys and strong chemistry still needs to be on edge. A little agitation keeps everyone from getting too comfortable with their surroundings.For a team that isn't good enough to ever get comfortable, they need to stay hungry for every minute available. JOB was able to send that message tonight, that everyone needs to stay hungry because nothing is set.
Plenty of other toughts and observations:
- JOB thought the defense played with the right intensity and mindset for about half of the game. He liked the active hands and was real pleased with the team's 40 deflections. Again, he can teach using half of the game to learn from mistakes and the other half as positive reinforcement.
- Luther Head looked as comfortable on the floor as any Pacer despite just recently joining the team. JOB's style of play definitely suits his game as he was quick to get out and not only run the floor but finish. Luther knocked down a couple of threes and finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists but it seemed like he was all over the place. After the game it was obvious that he had memorized the team's defensive memo. He repeatedly mentioned focusing on defense as his priority and letting the rest of the game evolve naturally. If he can consistently bring the type of energy and production he showed tonight, it will be easy for JOB to find him some minutes.
- Danny Granger finished with 27 points like it was just another day at the office. I was surprised at the half when DG had 15 points because it seemed like he had four. Of course, his ability to get to the line and make free throws always bolsters those scoring numbers. He really looked in mid-season form, especially at the start of the fourth quarter when he had that look in his eye and ignited a comeback that knocked the Bulls 13-point lead down to two. Since it was a preseason game, DG didn't get to finish the job, but it was nice to see him ready, willing and able to do it on night one.
- Granger was a bit up and down defensively. When the team played well he was certainly in the mix, but one bad play stuck out in the second half. 33 was isolated on the wing with John Salmons but was unable to beat Salmons to the spot on the baseline and ended up committing a foul when Salmons made it by him.
- Brandon Rush had some of those active hands on defense but floated at times on offense. Rush finished with 13 points but didn't take a shot until the second half. After the game he said, like Head, he was focusing on defense and wanted to let the offense come to him instead of forcing anything early. Still need to see the aggressive offensive mindset he showed in the second half all game long.
- Dahntay Jones made a solid Fieldhouse debut before taking a blow to the lower back and finding an ice pack for the rest of the evening. While it was nice to see him knock down his first jumper and first 3-ball attempt, it was equally pleasant to see him get up in the jersey of John Salmons and Derrick Byars on defense.
- A.J. Price look real solid at both ends of the floor except for one minor detail. He couldn't make a shot. Literally missed 'em all despite some very good looks. At least we know that shouldn't be a chronic problem, just one of those nights.
- Josh McRoberts made his presence felt with a couple of steals and six rebounds. He also had the finish of the night when he threw down a flying one-handed dunk in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to two.
- Oh, and Derrick Rose is still really good. Rose took over for a couple of brief stints in the second half to make sure everything stayed in Chicago's favor.
- I was sitting near the Bulls bench and enjoyed the treatment given the replacement refs. You could tell everyone on the bench was holding their tongue more than usual and then when the game tightened and the time began running out there was a lot of free advice offered. Suddenly, players and assistant coaches were introducing themselves during timeouts and feeding the refs tips. In fact, I think Lindsey Hunter felt as though he was doing a public service, trying to mentor a young ref to see things his way. Classic.