The Indiana Pacers couldn't have asked for a better way to open up their preseason. Anything to quell the concerns of Indiana's "lost season" would've done well, but it was fairly reassuring to see the Pacers really go above and beyond, allowing fans to breathe a little and at least think there may be something salvaging in this season after all.
Of course, let's not get too hung up that this is the preseason, that there are still six more games before the first game that actually counts, that it can still all come crashing down again on Friday, or that the Minnesota Timberwolves looked like they just got to training camp this morning. No, this is about the Indiana Pacers proving the haters wrong and going big in a 103-90 victory!
Or something like that.
To be fair, the Pacers probably did out kick the expectations for this game. The Timberwolves jumped up early thanks to some solid shooting early, but quickly fell cold and were put in the rearview mirror when Indiana ran off a 6-0 run at the midway point of the first quarter. The Pacers took the lead thanks to solid ball movement and high quality play from George Hill and Roy Hibbert in particular.
The Pacers scored 30 points in the first quarter, and managed to put themselves in midseason form from last season with a woeful second quarter shooting exhibition. Indiana came out hot in the third quarter, scoring 36 on 63% shooting to push their four point halftime lead to 20 heading into the fourth quarter. Indiana shot 48% on the night while holding Minnesota to just 37%.
George Hill looked sharp as the team's first option tonight, scoring 17 points on 6-9 shooting with seven assists, six rebounds, and a pair of steals. Hill suffered a non-injury late in the second quarter, but did return in the third quarter as the lone starter, scoring 11 points in the quarter.
Hill got plenty of help in the third quarter from Lavoy Allen, who had all 10 of his points in the quarter, hitting four jumpers out of the paint, including a pair of corner jumpers, to go with seven rebounds. Shayne Whittington showed his range as well with a trio of jumpers on 5-5 shooting, scoring 11 points. While those three were the only Pacers in double figures, Indiana got quality play all around tonight.
Roy Hibbert had eight points and five rebounds in 15 minutes of action, showing his value on the defensive end while Rodney Stuckey had a positive debut with nine points on 4-7 shooting. Solomon Hill also showed some quality play defensively, but offered up very little offensively, getting shut down by Minnesota's new super rookie Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins wavered in and out of the game, but wasn't without some impressive things in his preseason debut, leading the Wolves in scoring with 18 points, getting to the line 10 times (converting eight) and coming up with three blocks (all three on Solo, c'mon, man).
Indiana's newfound marksmanship didn't put up much of note from range with C.J. Miles and Damjan Rudez going a combined 1-5 from deep, but Rudez came through with his shot variety, scoring eight points on 4-8 shooting, including a pair of jumpers from the left side of the floor. Miles had seven. The end of the roster had some nice play in the fourth quarter, with Arinze Onuaku and Whittington making some nice plays around the basket.
Free free to make the asterisk on tonight's performance as big or small as you want, but in terms of preseason play, tonight's showcase was as good as one could hope. Indiana showed things that could very yet become long term foundations for the Pacers. Frank Vogel. Vogel said after the game that he had written on the black board "Winning is a habit." While the wins and losses of preseason mean little, playing winning basketball does, and Indiana passed that test tonight. Indiana's next preseason test will come Friday night as they host the Orlando Magic.