Just like that, the exhibition fare is over and it's time for the Indiana Pacers to tip off the 2013-14 NBA season. Despite some rocky play early, the Pacers rounded themselves into the team they were more or less expected to be, saving their best defensive outing for last, and still finding a way to get to 98 points despite a 14-point second quarter where they shot 20%.
Their defensive prowess really took off in the second half, holding the Dallas Mavericks to 36 points, while exploding offensively behind Paul George for 59. About George, after some early frustrations regarding fouls being called/not being called, he played at another level late in the third quarter and into the fourth, scoring 16 of his 28 points with some real superstar shots; the kind where despite best defensive efforts by the opposition, the ball just finds the bottom of the net. Isn't that exciting?
George also pitched in six rebounds and six assists, as part of an impressive Pacers rebounding showcase. Indiana wound up winning the rebounding battle by 10, grabbing 17 offensive boards along the way. No one was more active on the glass than Indiana's big men Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi, who corralled eight offensive rebounds between them. In general, the level of play from the two centers was a massive step up from where they had been over the course of the preseason.
Hibbert tacked on 14 points on 4-8 shooting, getting help from George Hill, who as well, picked a fine time to pick up his level of play, scoring 12. The bench for the Pacers was steady despite a bulk of the minutes going to the starters. C.J. Watson and Luis Scola were spot on at stretches, Watson reached double figures with 10, while Scola had eight on a wildly efficient 4-5 shooting. Chris Copeland continued to struggle, however, missing all four of his three point attempts and appearing visually frustrated at his lack of contribution, especially after his only three point attempt that went in was waved due to a three second violation.
The Pacers were also excellent from the line again tonight, going 19-21. Besides shooting, where the Pacers sat at 31% late in the first half, everything seems to have found its level as the Pacers enter the regular season. The problem? Well, stretches of dry spells scoring and low FG% appear to be a part of the team yet again this year, but they've still found a way to pull themselves up from those poor stretches offensively, while showing, at least tonight, to be able to lean on their defense in these runs.
Now, the NBA season is about to start. The Indiana Pacers will be the first team to tip off the season despite the lights being shone brightly on Miami and Chicago. Indiana will open against the Orlando Magic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this Tuesday. It'll be the first glimpse of former Indiana standout Victor Oladipo as the Pacers aim to start the season with a win.