The Indiana Pacers fell in their preseason debut against the New Orleans Pelicans, but 25 days clear of the regular season opener, the wins and losses for the Pacers are the least of concerns until that October 28th game against the Raptors. Against the Pelicans, however, the first live game action of Indiana's brand new system was on display, and well, it looked about haphazard as expected.
Offensively, the tempo was there as expected. The Pacers moved quicker and were, at least in comparison to previous seasons, able to find their way to their 105 points fairly effortlessly. As a team, they shot 41% from the floor, but struggled from three point range, going just 10-35, with half of those coming early from Paul George and C.J. Miles. The problems, possibly more expected, came defensively.
The Pacers allowed 67 first half points to the Pelicans, and despite a much improved second half where New Orleans scored just 43, the asterisk of having no Anthony Davis in the second half may have had as much to do with their offensive struggles as anything. Davis played 16 minutes in his preseason debut, scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
Fortunately, Indiana got the most out of their own superstar, with Paul George playing 24 minutes through three quarters, leading Indiana with 18 points. The talk of George being 100% looked pretty on point; it was obvious how much further he'd come from the last time he was scene playing ball in March and April. With the good came the bad, at least in terms of turnovers, with George's handles and decision making still a little questionable.
That said, his quotes from after the game about his spot at the four will continue to fuel that speculation with regards to what kind of role George will have as a four.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">PG: "I don't know if I'm cut out for a 4 spot. I don't know if this is my position."</p>— Tom Lewis (@IndyCornrows) <a href="https://twitter.com/IndyCornrows/status/650497955896496128">October 4, 2015</a></blockquote>
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In no way was it a surprise how much of an edge Davis had on George at that position, but the issue does need to be addressed as the preseason progresses in finding ways to figure out what "Paul George as a 4" actually means.
Among the starters, George Hill was the only other to reach double figures with 11 with him and C.J. Miles each going 3-7 from the floor. Ian Mahinmi did make some big defensive plays in his time on the floor totaling four blocks, but was expectedly negligible on the offensive end with a single point (proving he did hit a free throw at least). Monta Ellis's back issues may have played an issue in his poor debut, with two points coming on 0-4 shooting.
On the bench, all 11 active players put in some run, all offering their own positives and negatives, but in most cases there was plenty to build on.
- Lavoy Allen had six points and eight rebounds, including five on the offensive end. Allen played well early last year and before some struggles late, but he looked like the on-point version tonight, aside from the possessions where New Orleans' Luke Babbitt drew him from the rim and popped him with a couple of threes.
- Shayne Whittington got run late and made a bad play almost immediately, fouling Chris Douglas-Roberts on a four point play. After that, Whittington showed some new-found defensive chops, at least in being a vast improvement over last season also drilling a late three.
- Rakeem Christmas looked good in his debut with five points and four boards, putting in Indiana's best (made) dunk of the night. He'll be someone to keep an eye on as the preseason continues.
- Myles Turner's debut was a mixed bag of poor offense and impressive plays on defense. Turner was 0-5 from the floor, seeing a different look than the one he dominated in Summer League, but his six boards and two blocks were a solid start to what can hopefully expand itself to the offensive side of the ball.
- Solomon Hill was without question the biggest surprise of the night. With expectations at an all time low for the third year wing, Hill came out swinging, not only playing active, but being a solid contributor on the offensive end. On top of 10 points on 4-8 shooting, Hill saw the court well in terms of decision making, totaling zero turnovers.
- C.J. Fair got just a few minutes at the end of the game, but showed nice activity, coming up with two points and four boards. Fair may be a near impossibility to make the team given Indiana's contract situations, but still offered up some net positive minutes in his time on the floor.
- Glenn Robinson III also impressed in his Pacers debut, scoring 10 points while leading Indiana in assists with four. While Fair may be a long shot to make the team, Robinson is a long shot to finding time this season, but a solid showing in the preseason may make it a more difficult choice for the coaching staff.
- Jordan Hill had his jumper on point, hitting 4-6 from the field, all coming from outside the paint. Hill had 10 points and a pair of blocks.
- Joe Young was up and down in a lot of ways. Young had a few nice plays, but at just 3-11 from the floor with no discernible point guard abilities was a bit disheartening from Indiana's potential backup point guard. There was some good and not so good from Young in the Summer League, it'll be interesting to see how the speed of the game treats him as the preseason progresses.
- Toney Douglas offered little on the offensive end in his debut, but three steals, turning into back-to-back fast break opportunities that may or may not have involved an officiating crew going half speed not calling fouls were definite highlights for Douglas on the night. Douglas will be another interesting case this preseason not being on a fully guaranteed deal.
- Rodney Stuckey looked familiar in his short time on the floor tonight, scoring four with five rebounds and four assists. But of all the players on the roster, the preseason offers very little for a player like Stuckey, who should be well within the same role he was in last season regardless of what he does or doesn't do this preseason.
Frank Vogel pretty much covered everything in a short quote, saying "Plenty of positives, plenty to work on." That will continue on when the Pacers travel to Detroit to take on the Pistons on Tuesday, but for now, it's exciting to have Pacers basketball back in action.