The Pacers rolled along with a big lead most of the game until a late run by the Jazz cut the lead to single digits. But the Pacers held on as rookie Lance Stephenson made the plays at winning time to seal the victory. Of course, winning and losing isn't as important as how the team played and more importantly how Josh McRoberts, Paul George, Magnum Rolle and Lance Stephenson played since they are the players most likely to be on the Pacers' roster this upcoming season.
After a lackluster effort last night, the whole team had a better bounce in their game tonight and the four key players led the way at different points in the game. Last night the team shot 26 three-pointers with McRoberts and George combining to shoot a paltry 2-19 from behind the arc.
Tonight the pair were 2 for 3 from 3-land COMBINED, but found ways to score closer to the rim, accounting for 36 of the Pacers 83 points. They also hooked up for a couple of highlight plays with George firing a beautiful half-court alley oop that McRoberts dunked home over a defender. A couple of possessions later, McRoberts found George with a lob after a nice back cut by the rookie.
These plays were part of a spectacular third quarter showtime run by the Pacers when they appeared to overwhelm the Jazz with athletic plays. Stephenson also worked his way into the act with a baseline Statue of Liberty dunk which is his signature finish in the lane. Good times.
Of course, it wasn't a perfect night. Far too many turnovers and sloppy play at times, but overall the effort at both ends of the floor didn't disappoint. Hard to say if it was by design or not, but the Pacers only shot nine three-pointers al night, four of them late when the lead was slipping away, and instead attacked the paint which made for an efficient offensive night.
After the jump, more thoughts on player performances including Gordon Hayward's quiet night for the Jazz.
- Josh McRoberts was a different player tonight. After hitting an early three pointer he didn't venture out behind the arc again and instead took an aggressive approach looking to score in the paint. He only missed one shot all night finishing 5 of 6 from the floor and 10-10 from the free throw line. Along with directing the young players around the court, McRoberts also dished out 4 assists to his summer teammates. On the negative tip, McRoberts had four turnovers.
- Paul George finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds starting out strong but fighting it a bit late except for a 5-point burst on consecutive possessions. George's ball handling is loose which was highlighted by his isolation attempt at the end of the third quarter when his dribble was picked by a helping defender. He also lost his dribble on a break away earlier in the game, just one of his five turnovers.
- Lance Stephenson didn't let up until the final buzzer once again, finishing the game strong to help close out the Jazz. To start the game Stephenson had a nice bounce in his step and seemed much more comfortable on the court. In fact, he seemed too comfortable at times in the first half, trying to do a little too much with the ball and getting caught in the air a couple of times. He only had two turnovers for the game and really settled things down in the second half which I have to think was a reaction to coaching. Certainly a good sign.
- Stephenson didn't have an assist but that doesn't mean he wasn't passing the ball. Seems like he would either initialize a play with a pass or teammates he did set up were fouled and went to the line. Also, once again he was extremely efficient scoring 19 points on 6-8 from the floor. He missed a couple of free throws badly but made 7-10 from the line. Stephenson still hasn't shot a three-pointer and I'm not sure he ever needs to. Any extra shooting practice he takes should be at the free throw line because with his physical style of play he could put up a lot of point from charity stripe.
- Magnum Rolle continues to impress with his active game around the rim. He even had a nice move on the right block, finishing with a spin move and lefty one-hander. Looked like a young, healthy Jermaine O'Neal on that one. Rolle works hard in the post and does a good job fighting for position on rebounds or to receive an entry pass. At times he fought a little too much considering he took advantage of the no-foul-out rule to log 8 fouls. Also, Rolle's footwork needs some serious work as the bulk of his 5 turnovers were on traveling calls as he went into his post move after catching the ball. Aside from that, Rolle added to the highlight reel with a couple of nice finishing flushes and blocks. He also scooped up a loose ball and threw a long outlet pass from his knees to a streaking Stephenson who finished with a dunk of his own. On the night, Rolle had 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks.
- There weren't any standout performances from the other Summer Pacers. Russell Robinson handled the second-team point guard duties instead of Thomas Heurtel. Not sure if Heurtel was dinged up or if Frank Vogel just wanted to give Robinson some run.
- Butler's Gordon Hayward was unable to get much going all night. He only took 5 shots and finished with 7 points and 2 rebounds. His highlight of the night came when he picked a loose pass from Paul George and took the ball strong to the other end finishing through a foul with a dunk.
- Larry Bird was interviewed on the NBA TV broadcast at halftime and managed to work his way through the interview without saying anything significant. Pretty impressive.
- The Pacers play another local legend tomorrow afternoon when they take on Luke Harangody and the Boston Celtics at 3:00PM. Harangody finished with 12 points and 3 rebounds in the C's summer win over Charlotte today.