The Indiana Pacers played short-handed against the Portland Trail Blazers, receiving news that Myles Turner would be out with a concussion. Tonight’s game was an uphill battle with Turner, but without him, the gap between the teams became obvious. Indiana didn’t win a single quarter, were outrebounded by 12, and had nowhere near the shot making ability of the Blazers.
That shot making ability was a big part of Indiana’s problem throughout the night. Contending with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum (shooting 12-18) is always tough, but the Pacers also had to contend with Evan Turner, who scored 17 on 7-12 shooting. It helped Portland shoot over 50% for much of the night, while Indiana finished at 44.8%.
Being overmatched is going to be an unfortunate problem this season. It’s been a long time since Pacers fans have had to adjust their expectations quite to this level, so while it’s obvious this year’s team wasn’t expected much of, seeing it play out to this level, especially without your best player, is a bit of a wake-up call.
Even still, tonight's loss, as many may be, didn’t come because of a lack of effort and it didn’t come without its own set of positives. The biggest positive of all was rookie T.J. Leaf, who after a scoreless debut, exploded to lead the Pacers in scoring with 17 off the bench. Leaf hit from everywhere on the floor, shooting 7-11 and hitting two of Indiana’s four three pointers.
There may be some questions defensively (as with the team as a whole), but seeing the young fella get involved in this way was a big positive. The front court off the bench did good things for Indiana as a whole, with Al Jefferson playing well in his season debut, scoring eight on 4-6 shooting, even involving himself defensively. Cory Joseph and Lance Stephenson were a combined 2-10 shooting off the bench, but Joseph was a perfect 5-5 from the line, a lone bright spot in a dreadful free throw shooting effort from the Pacers, shooting just 22-33 at 67%.
In the starting lineup, things didn’t far so well. Victor Oladipo led the way with 17 points, but questions of efficiency came into play as he needed as many shots to get there, going just 5-17 from the floor. His ability to get to the line (7-9) helps the Pacers, but he wasn’t as free to run as he was against the Nets, though he did end up with Indiana’s biggest highlight of the night right before halftime.
Darren Collison followed up with a steady 14 points on 5-9 shooting, leading the team with just four assists on a night when Indiana had just 15 as a team while also picking up Indiana’s only steal of the game. It was the lowest steals output since 2014, and not surprisingly, the Pacers have now lost seven straight games in which they’ve recorded one or fewer steals.
Indiana actually played close with Portland in terms of turnovers, but the lack of live ball turnovers led to the Pacers losing in points off turnovers 23-10 and the Blazers held Indiana to just nine fast break points, outscoring the Pacers 18-9 on the game. There wasn’t an area of the game the Pacers outperformed Portland, which may be a trend, especially in games Turner misses.
Domantas Sabonis came back to earth after a stellar opening game, scoring just three points on 1-5 shooting. Thaddeus Young followed with eight points of his own, but there wasn’t much contribution inside from their bigs, also being outscored 48-40 in points in the paint. Bojan Bogdanovic continues to struggle with his three point shot, but did reach double figures with 11 thanks to clever play inside.
Indiana will hit the road for their first back-to-back of the season tomorrow night against the Miami Heat. Turner will also be out for tomorrow’s game, but the Heat will also be short Hassan Whiteside, missing Miami’s home opener with a sore left knee. With a very difficult schedule awaiting them next week, this may be Indiana’s best shot at a win, which will hopefully keep their energy and effort high away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.