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Orlando Summer League: Pacers escape Magic

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Indiana led by 20 points in the first half, but needed a 9-0 run in the fourth behind Nazareth Mithrou-Long to top Orlando in the Summer League opener.

Iowa State v Purdue Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Indiana Pacers dominated early against the Orlando Magic to open the Orlando Summer League exhibition, using a quick start to build towards a 20-point first half lead. From the third quarter on, however, the Magic returned the favor, outhustling the Pacers to erase the lead and tie the game at 69-69.

From that point, Indiana responded with a 9-0 run to put the game away, led by Nazareth Mithrou-Long, who hit a pair of threes in the run as part of his 16 points for the game. Mithrou-Long had nine points in the fourth, all on threes, as one of five Pacers in double figures.

While Mithrou-Long helped push the Pacers to the win (including a fourth quarter victory that secured them seven points in the standings), his former Iowa State teammate and Pacers NBA product Georges Niang left in the opening minutes after suffering a left knee sprain. The injury didn’t rule Niang out of returning, but how the sprain responds and how the team feels about risking further injury in Summer League may ultimately determine Niang’s availability for the rest of the week.

With Niang out, the focus for the Pacers turned to Joe Young, who looked fairly Joe Young-ish, scoring 11 points on a pair of threes with six assists, but also committing five turnovers. Young’s prospects as an NBA point guard don’t appear promising, accenting the need to play him off the ball if he is to remain with the team for the upcoming season.

The Pacers also sat their other NBA roster player in Rakeem Christmas. This may be a scheduled rest day for Christmas, who should be expected to make a big impact when he does check in. In the meantime, the Pacers got solid contributions from Jarnell Stokes, who neared a double double with 10 points and nine rebounds.

Stokes was the best player on the floor in the first half, but struggled to match the energy in the second half. Chris Johnson would lead the battles of the boards with 12 rebounds and nine points. For the day, the Pacers were led by a pair of Ft. Wayne Mad Ants teammates, with Travis Leslie leading all scorers with 20 points on 8-14 shooting. Leslie also had eight rebounds. Trey McKinney-Jones followed up with 11 points of his own, hitting a pair of threes.

Overall, the Pacers did a good job as a team responding to a late push (and tie) from the Magic to secure the win. The run began when Young checked back into the game, but it may be a stretch to lay it all on his stewardship with Mithrou-Long being the primary shotmaker in the 9-0 run.

Wins are good, however, especially with Myles Turner cheering the team on, and it will be interesting to see the consistency of players on the roster. It’s difficult to ever take much from the Orlando Summer League, but consistent play is always encouraging, especially in the four day marathon setting the Pacers will face before the championship series on Thursday. Indiana will continue tomorrow at 5 p.m. against the Charlotte Hornets.