The late tip must have thrown the mindset of the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers in their opening game of Orlando Summer League. How else to explain both teams coming out destined to play some of the worst basketball ever caught on video? Kendall Gill was willing to write it off as the players not being ready to be in the presence of Larry Bird or Doug Collins (with a notable lack of mention for former Pacers head coach Jim O'Brien), but that was just a nice way to lift the weight off of the jittery shoulders of NBA draft picks and NBA hopefuls trying to make a good first impression.
With the teams at one point stuttering to a combined 7-32 shooting, it's no surprise neither was able to really gain any kind of momentum, despite Philadelphia's lead through the first half, a low scoring 30-27 affair (seemingly leagues higher than the 12-all deadock after one). Once the Pacers settled into their game, the three focus members of the team, Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson, and Miles Plumlee all turned plays to give Indiana the lead, one they would hold through as Johnson sank in the dagger late.
The individual play certainly outshines the flow or the outcome of games in Summer League (despite a pair of recent blue and gold Orlando Summer League Championships), but seeing how these guys respond to tight game situations is always exciting. For Stephenson, his play late began to look cohesive compared to his play early, and Johnson certainly showed a lot of (maybe too much at times) willingness to take over.
For Philadephia, the shot making abilities of Justin Holiday and Jacob Pullen provided some needed baskets for Philly as Holiday and Solomon Jones provided Philly's biggest rebounding edge. First round pick Maurice Harkless was unspectacular in his efforts, quiet and largely invisible on the floor. In a day where the draft picks shined, Harkless's lack of glimmer seemed to offer its own light.
Back on the blue and gold, Robert Vaden offered some of the most consistent play early, showing up to hit a big three pointer late. Jeff Pendergraph pulled down six boards, but aside from some active play, didn't offer much show for his own efforts. Matt Rogers gave the best play from the bench, some surprising moves in a mixed bag, but gave the Pacers some size advantages throughout the game. Purdue's Chris Kramer got a short run, but made a nice drive at the basket for a pair of points.
Lance Stephenson was the playmaker for the Pacers, showcasing a lot of nifty moves on offense. Stephenson looked like the best athlete on the floor on offense, and distributed like the best player on the floor. Even though his shot was suspect and his defense was virtually non-existent (though he did make some effort late in the game), Lance finished with 13 points and 6 assists, using his abilities to pull defenders onto him before making a solid pass.
Orlando Johnson had a game high 19 points, but it took him 19 shots to get there. Jitters may have played a part in Johnson's overall shooting, a poor effort from away from the basket, but aside from some questionable decisions in ball control and passing, he showed the kind of mentality the Pacers have needed from their bench. Johnson attacked the basket at will, getting to the line 10 times, before getting the dagger jump to fall through the net. He also remained active throughout the game, totaling nine boards.
Miles Plumlee was stiff to open the game, much like the entire roster for both teams. His moves on offense look severely limited, almost Tyler Hansbrough-esque in how he tries to make plays without any threat of a post game, but he continued to plug away, eventually settling into a nice game. He finished the night with a near double double of 9 points and 10 boards, showing enough raw skills that if he puts in the work, he can certainly pan out as a piece of a successful Pacers team rotation.
But rotation isn't what Pacers fans were hoping for on draft night, and they'll get an up close opportunity tomorrow at 1 p.m. when the Pacers take on Perry Jones III and the Oklahoma City Thunder. For reference, click for box score and information on the Pacers and 76ers.