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Rockets 126, Pacers 92: Lack of Hustle and Basketball IQ Dooms Indiana

It’s only the preseason. If you say it enough times, you can probably convince yourself that, and while this won’t be the same effort they give when the season starts, the fact this team can give nights like this isn’t a glowing beacon of progress.

Despite getting outmuscled and outhustled the entire first half, the Pacers found themselves in a back and forth game, but once the second half started, the Pacers forgot to dress up. From the curiously confusing, obnoxiously complex lineup of Dahntay Jones, Solomon Jones, Darren Collison, Brandon Rush, and Tyler Hansbrough to the final buzzer, the second half was absolutely unwatchable, and was nothing but bad omen after bad omen.

Every Rockets steal, every lazy pass on offense, every time you can count Collison forcing things because his best option is a floating Hansbrough, and every moment the Toyota Center exploded with elated exclamations was a dagger in the heart of positivity. While it may be preseason, ugly efforts transition into the regular season.

Not much to say about this one besides the fact it was ugly. The Pacers were lazy on defense, lazy on offense (resulting in numerous avoidable turnovers), and were outspirited and outhustled, despite a quality first half on the boards. The team also struggled from the three point line again, setting up another disturbing trend as the regular season draws nearer.

After the jump, player breakdowns, for those worth it anyway:

  • Jeff Foster wins the player of the game award, for his lifting efforts in limited action. Foster looked good for the first time in two years, giving himself to every play and hawking out every rebound, even shoving his own teammates out of the way to bring it down.
  • Danny Granger shot the ball better, but showed questionable decision making. Granger was able to hit his shots when he wasn’t quick releasing, but there’s really a lot of questions that get raised when you dribble directly into the corner against a double team. Granger led the team with five turnovers.
  • Tyler Hansbrough had a lot of positive energies tonight as a starter. He scored 11 points, got more than one call in his favor, and did all the things we should grow accustom to seeing him execute. He settled for more jumpers than I would’ve liked, but still played a solid game and looked ready to play.
  • Roy Hibbert managed to play over 30 minutes again tonight on limited fouling, but is going to be sore tomorrow as the big fella was beaten up all night. He finished with a team high 17 points and 9 rebounds, but shot 38% from the field. He spent a lot of time out of the paint, but was getting roughed up every time the ball came near him.
  • Brandon Rush played extended minutes and didn’t look any different, sans a nice alley oop play he was the benefactor of. He got the start over Dunleavy, and showed marginal improvement in the first half defense. The starting two spot could end up being the hardest to pin down.
  • Darren Collison had a rough game. He didn’t look comfortable in such a physical environment, and was well over his head when trying to figure out how to lead the second half’s starting unit. We caught a glimpse of Collison’s human side tonight. Unfortunately, it exists.
  • Mike Dunleavy looked much more productive with the second unit, helping it stay alive with shots of offense. I’m going to suggest that he come off the bench, even if that leaves us with no one worth starting at the two. We need Mike as a sixth man more than the figurehead of starter.
  • A.J. Price is not a point guard. At least no more than Lance Stephenson is. Price has been the most consistent scorer this preseason, but has shown even less point guard moves than he did last season. Are we sure we want T.J. Ford gone? Price got some burn with Granger and Hibbert, and his contributions were simple: dribble the hell out of the ball and chuck up a three. At least they went in.
  • Solomon Jones had no shot against Yao Ming. It wasn’t even fair watching Yao punish Solo the way Ohio State might punish Indiana in football (not saying it would happen, but…it might). Are we already dreading the front court depth without Josh McRoberts?
  • One more knock on the second half starting lineup, to which we shouldn’t see together on the floor even if half the team is injured, the other half is out with the flu, and two guys just didn’t show up for work. The tempo of the second half was set thanks to that lineup, a lineup so confusing that I’m having trouble processing it. When I saw the lineup take the floor, I thought, "How is this going to work?" Turns out, it wasn’t. I appreciate Obie planning for the lineup he’s going to field when the basketball apocalypse comes and goes, but I can’t possibly justify it.

Indiana is mercifully off until Wednesday, and will need every day to figure out what just happened. The Pacers were steamrolled and made little effort to not get steamrolled. I know it’s just preseason. But at the same time, I hope it’s just preseason.