Though just one game, the Indiana Pacers made good on their fresh start against the Brooklyn Nets, topping them in a 140-131 offensive showcase. The Pacers led for most of the night, never trailing in the second half, but the Nets did not go quietly, fighting back against every Indiana run, hitting timely threes and being excellent from the free throw line.
The Nets finished shooting 47.9% for the game, but shot over 50% in the first half, which may be a major issue for the Pacers as they move forward this season. There was little in the way of resistance at times from the Pacers, but the Nets did well to make shots. There was some misfortune in not coming up with rebounds after blocks (such as a late Myles Turner swat that ended up a layup for the Brooklyn), but there will be some defensive issues, especially when starting Bojan Bogdanovic, who absolutely lived up to his billing as a poor defensive player.
The one thing Indiana did do well defensively, however, was come up with turnovers, forcing Brooklyn into 20 on the night, 12 of those coming on steals. An early staple of success from the Pacers came in steals from either Victor Oladipo or Darren Collison and getting out in transition for an easy breakaway bucket.
Fast breaks were a big advantage for the Pacers, outscoring Brooklyn 28-13, which was big early when the Nets managed a first quarter lead even despite committing eight turnovers. Fast breaks weren’t all Oladipo succeeded in in his return to the state of Indiana, leading the Pacers with 22 points, 19 in the first half.
Oladipo shot 6-12 from the floor, hitting a pair of threes and leading Indiana from the line at 8-10. If Oladipo is going to be a leader on the court for this team, he’ll need to keep working his way to the line, and opportunistic defense, which led to four steals, will help him in creating trips by attacking the rim.
The starting backcourt of Oladipo and Darren Collison stands to create plenty of opportunistic defensive plays, with a pair of steals from Collison and their combined speed proving a lethal combination against the Nets. Collison himself had a tremendous showcase in his own return, scoring 21 points on a stellar 9-12 shooting, topping off a double double with 11 assists.
In addition to his scoring ability tonight, Collison brought some much needed veteran play to the Pacers, including a late possession pulling off an open three point look to kill time on the clock at a point when the Nets looked at trimming the lead. That veteran ability was also on display with Cory Joseph, who hit a crucial three halfway through the fourth to stop an 8-0 Nets run as part of his 11 point night.
Myles Turner was impressive tonight, making an impact against Brooklyn despite stretches of the game where he was not involved. Turner scored 21 points on 8-13 shooting, wrapping up a double double with 14 rebounds, three of those offensive, to go with four blocks. Turner’s midrange game was on point, shooting 4-5, stepping out to hit one of three threes.
It wasn’t a major point of emphasis tonight due to the success around him, but there were stretches in which Turner’s teammates struggled to find him in the post. Turner is the closest player the Pacers have to a legitimate go-to threat, so it will be worth watching to see how the Pacers feed him if the team is in need of a bucket late and he’s covered.
One player who it appears won’t struggle to find any shots is Lance Stephenson, who jacked up 19 attempts in 24 minutes, giving fans the full spectrum of Stephenson’s full arsenal; a lot of bricks, some dazzling layups, and even a three or two. Another development to watch for will be to see whether Stephenson is corralled in or if he’ll be allowed free reign to bring energy to the team, efficiency be damned.
The most impressive performance of the night off the bench was a 16-point night from Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis shot a perfect 7-7 from the floor, pulling in seven rebounds, four of those on the offensive end. Indiana converted six points on his rebounding, doing nearly all of his damage in the paint with some big plays.
Indiana had 14 offensive rebounds on the night, leading to 21 second chance points, including nine second chance points thanks to Thaddeus Young, pulling in five of his 11 boards on the offensive end. Young had 17 points and a pair of steals, showing all of the reliability he had last year.
While Young hasn’t missed a beat in being a key piece in Indiana’s success, it will take some digging to find value in the play of Bojan Bogdanovic, who came up with 14 points on 5-9 shooting, but carried over his preseason three point shooting struggles and paired them with some absolutely woeful defense.
It may turn out that Indiana’s roster is not be set up to contain much of anyone, but they’re especially susceptible to wing scorers, making Bogdanovic’s defense a real concern. On the bright side, Bogdanovic’s offensive game is not only limited to three point shooting. He showed an ability to score in a number of ways, but he didn’t offer anything except that, combining poor defense with zeros in rebounds, assists, and so on.
The Indiana defense will be quickly tested in game number two, as they stay at home, hosting the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. The Blazers will see the season debut of C.J. McCollum, and combined with Damian Lillard, stand to put the Pacers in a world of hurt if they aren’t contained defensively. The Pacers did not do well in slowing down another point guard tonight as D’Angelo Russell scored a game high 30 points for Brooklyn, but this duo is even more dangerous than the young Russell.