140 points, a 123.6 offensive rating, 102 shots taken, 29 assists and a 54.7 assist percentage. These are just some of the mind-boggling stats from the Indiana Pacers’ home opener against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets are garbage. They’ve won a combined 41 games over the past two seasons. They traded for four new starters, tearing up any previous chemistry. It’s worth noting their only returning starter, Jeremy Lin, played in just 36 games last season. I wish him a speedy recovery after his knee injury on Wednesday.
Nobody is going to mistake Brooklyn for Cleveland or even for a worse team like Miami. The Net’s were the perfect first opponent for the “new look” Pacers. The Nets play fast, like to shoot threes and don’t care about defense.
The good news is Indiana feasted on them for one the best offensive performances in franchise history. Remember the Pacers rebuilt their entire core this offseason. There were a few chemistry issues, but nothing unexpected.
The Pacers didn’t seem to have any trouble passing the ball and nobody played below expectations. I know many fans weren’t happy with Lance Stephenson’s performance. He can’t shoot 19 times in a game every again, but he won’t have to if Victor Oladipo can stay out of foul trouble.
Darren Collison and Domantas Sabonis had the best nights of all the Indiana players. Coming into the season expectations were tempered on both players.
Collison’s defense and size had fans concerned, and rightly so. But the ninth year veteran calmed some nerves when he took control of the offense late in the game and scored the clinching basket.
Sabonis had the best night of his career. He shot a perfect 7-7 from the field and posted a ridiculous 173 offense rating. With Myles Turner out, he’s going to get the start against Portland and will go up against another young center in Jusuf Nurkic tonight. There is also a good chance he starts tomorrow against Hassan Whiteside and the Miami Heat.
Portland plays a much better version of Brooklyn’s style of basketball. Lillard and McCollom will shoot just as many threes as D’Angelo Russell and Lin, but they’ll convert them at a much higher rate.
Indiana will try to play fast but without Myles Turner they’ll be lacking depth at the center. Al Jefferson might have to play significant minutes and he’s not built to play fast.
Nate McMillan could try to shrink his lineup to an eight- or nine-man rotation. Damien Wilkins is also not skilled enough to play at the pace Indiana wants to. Indiana plays in Miami tomorrow night and shrinking to an eight-man rotation will force some of the team to play around 35-40 minutes tonight. The Pacers would be taking a risk to beat the Trailblazers, a team that’s significantly better than the Heat.
Cory Joseph is the player to watch against Portland. Darren Collison struggled to defend the Nets’ guards, which means he’ll certainly struggle against Lillard and McCollum. Joseph looked better on defense than Collison. He should play significant minutes with starters if the Pacers try to make a defensive effort to shut down the Trailblazers instead of trying to keep up with their pace.
It’s also worth noting this is McCollum's season opener because he was suspended the first game for leaving the bench during the preseason. He’s probably itching to get back out there and continue his growth into one of the best shooting guards in the NBA.
This game could get really ugly really fast, so if you have Friday night plans you shouldn’t cancel them...it could be out of reach by halftime.