David West scored the first two points for the Pacers in Manila over three minutes into the first quarter. Unfortunately, West's bucket ended a 12-0 run to start the game by the Houston Rockets as the Pacers appeared stuck in the Eastern time zone with several breakfast turnovers leading to a rough offensive start which didn't end much better as the Rockets won the game, 116-96.
The defense wasn't much better as the Rockets found their way into the lane with little resistance and eventually jumped out to a 15-point first quarter lead. Fortunately, big early leads rarely hold in the NBA and the Pacers cut it down to four points in the second quarter before ending the half down 56-49. The Pacers bench outshined the starters in this one, with Luis Scola and C.J. Watson making plays to help keep the Pacers in the game early.
In the second half, the defense tightened up a bit but it was hard to tell since the offense struggled so much. Frank Vogel started Danny Granger for Lance Stephenson in the second half, but the Pacers were left relying on David West to get his offensive game going to avoid getting run of of the Mall of Asia Arena. That simply wasn't enough.
From start to finish, the best thing about this game was that it was a preseason game, so here are a few other observations:
- Quinn Buckner made a great point when lamenting the array of turnovers the Pacers had in the first half which should apply to other areas of the game, as well. Buckner pointed out that the depth of talent on the Pacers roster should make it easy to replace any player struggling with turning the ball over. Maybe pulling minutes will help solve the issue that has been plaguing the Pacers offense the past couple of years.
- The starters just seemed out of sync at both ends. The inability to slow down the Rockets was most alarming. Even after made buckets, Houston was pushing the ball down the Pacers throats to get to the rim.
- Paul George made a pair of three pointers early but also had five turnovers and continues to befuddle by trying to split double teams with the dribble.
- Scola and Watson looked good in the second quarter with a highlight play coming on a second effort as Scola hauled in an offensive rebound, took a dribble out before snapping a pass to Watson who knocked down a three-pointer. Watson scored on a similar play following a Danny Granger offensive rebound.
- The box score is screwy but the Rockets had well over 50 points in the paint and really exposed the Pacers who simply couldn't stay in front of the dribble.
- Roy Hibbert and Dwight Howard lured each other into early foul trouble with Hibbert collecting three first-quarter fouls. Hibbert did block four shots but made just two of seven shots to finish with six points and eight rebounds. Howard didn't do much better with nine points and three rebounds.
- Danny Granger did start the second half and may be better off with the starting unit but he still lacks lift in the lane and/or confidence to go up strong around the rim. Granger played late in the game in an apparent effort to keep developing his game shape but he remains a work in progress.
- Rookie Solomon Hill remained in the early reserve rotation. While Hill remains solid on the defensive end, the young fella struggled on offense, catching little rim on his first two shot attempts.
- Chris Copeland played with the second unit this time around, unlike against Chicago. The Pacers needed an offensive burst, although Cope wasn't able to get his 3-ball stroke flowing in his first extended minutes with the Pacers. Much like the whole team, nothing was flowing right in Manila.
From Manila, the Pacers and Rockets move on to Taipei, Taiwan where 'Linsanity' will be out of control so the Pacers should be able their early Sunday morning game as a good road test. The game from Manila will be re-broadcast on Fox Sports Indiana at 1 pm and 8 pm ET on Thursday, but you've been warned, it won't be easy to watch. Time to get back to work for the blue and gold.