The end result for the Indiana Pacers in their preseason win over the Dallas Mavericks proved the highlight in an otherwise concerning night for the blue and gold. Indiana posted a double digit rally in the fourth quarter to come away with their second preseason victory behind big play from Donald Sloan and Chris Copeland, including a timely bucket from Damjan Rudez to cap a 98-93 victory.
Considering it came to a fourth quarter rally against a Mavericks team that sat their starters on the second night of a back-to-back may be a problem, however, as the Pacers posted a pitiful first half, including nine first quarter turnovers leading to 17 Dallas points and a 3-15 second quarter shooting effort put Indiana down 10. Things didn't get much better at all for Indiana, who only had a pair of David West jumpers to show in the first four minutes of the third.
It was a couple minutes later that David West would come down on his right ankle, leaving him writhing on the floor, and sending him to the locker room, needing help and being unable the put much pressure on the ankle. The official prognosis was a right ankle sprain, but the severity of the sprain is not yet known. As far as ankle sprains go, it certainly didn't look like a light one, and for a Pacers team in need of all the help they can get, an injury to David West is the last thing they can afford.
West was Indiana's leading scorer when he exited with 16 points on 5-11 shooting. As far as expected starters go, he was the only player who showed much of anything for Indiana in their time on the floor. C.J. Miles was off on his shot all night at 1-8, and the Pacers are still feeling around what kind of expectations they should have on Miles, though the solid one night, not so solid another night player he's been seems a fair place to start.
With George Hill and Roy Hibbert though, the concerns seem a little more pressing. Hill wasn't crisp on his decision making, though he certainly didn't receive much help in that department. With Hill finishing with 10 points on 3-11 shooting, he looked like...well, George Hill. Which is a problem when it comes to Hill needing to be more than that this season for Indiana to have chances against most teams.
Roy Hibbert on the other hand, showed some flashes of life in the fourth quarter with three buckets, but was just 3-4 on the night with five turnovers and six boards. His inability to make plays for most of the game against what amounts to Dallas's second and third units offers up causes for concerns about just how much progression or rebound of poor play Hibbert will make this season.
Doom and gloom certainly is the take away from tonight's effort, but there were some bright spots, especially in Chris Copeland, who pieced together a second solid game, leading the Pacers with 22 points on the night, including six three point field goals, including big shots down the stretch to help key Indiana's game winning comeback. There should be no doubt that Copeland is working his way into the Indiana rotation, especially given how less than impressive the wing play has been this preseason.
Solomon Hill and Damjan Rudez continue to look unable to contribute, Rudez a bit of a more excusable case than Hill. With Rudez, his issues have been poor shooting and still looking to figure out how the NBA game is played, but with Hill, the concerns may run deeper. Hill looked poor on defense and doesn't appear to have much in the way of an offense game, but that's less of a surprise.
On the Dallas side, the Pacers see the type of player that would serve as a respectable level for Hill in Jae Crowder, but the solid play of Crowder is far from where Hill is at this moment. Growth throughout the season is going to be paramount for Hill, and with how poor Indiana looked in the first half and how rocky their wing rotation appears to be, there should be ample opportunity for him.
Donald Sloan was spotty at best last season even given a larger role at times due to injury, but tonight offered up a lot of positives that show his worth as a third string point guard who is certainly capable of stepping in when called on. Ian Mahinmi continues to look sharp with eight points on 4-5 shooting, numbers replicated by Lavoy Allen. Despite concerns with the wing position, the Pacers appear to have solid depth at the point and front line positions, not counting one's opinion's on the starters.
Regardless of setting, it feels good to come away with a win. The Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd got up for the comeback down the stretch, giving even the most concerned Pacers fans something to take away from the night. But coming away with a preseason win doesn't do much to quell concerns about all of the less than stellar things that took place tonight.
The Pacers are down to two preseason games before things count for real, as they travel north to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. Indiana had an easy time with the Wolves in the preseason opener, so the progress of Minnesota will be interesting to look for as well as seeing whether the Pacers can find any reliability from the wing position.