It may not have counted, but it was nice to see the Indiana Pacers take the floor after a long summer, pulling together a preseason victory over the Houston Rockets. In a back-and-forth game, the Pacers largely looked like they hadn’t missed a beat, a minor sigh of relief if there was any doubt about their mentality heading into, well, the preseason anyway.
The Pacers excelled in familiar areas against the Rockets, forcing 26 turnovers including 11 steals, leading to 30 points and outscoring Houston 24-13 in fast break points. The Pacers went 22-26 from the free throw line in a game that featured a staggering 55 fouls between the two teams.
Victor Oladipo led the way for the Pacers, scoring 24 points in 25 minutes, including 4-10 from three point range. Oladipo had 19 of those points in the first half, including a buzzer beating three to end the first half (set up after T.J. Leaf blocked Chris Paul at the three point line).
Speaking of Leaf, his ability to rebound on the offensive end was on display with seven offensive boards, scoring eight of his 13 points on putbacks. Leaf finished with a 12 rebound double double, leading the starters in both assists and steals. He hit a late three becoming just the third Pacer to hit a three, joining Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic.
Bogdanovic hit three threes, with he and Oladipo combining for 7-15 from deep, but the rest of the team was just 1-11, including an 0-4 night from Doug McDermott. McDermott struggled in his preseason debut, scoring just two points on 1-8 shooting, but did manage to hold James Harden on a possession, for what that’s worth. He wasn’t alone, however, as Darren Collison went just 2-10 for four points.
On a more positive note, the Pacers got an exciting performance from Edmond Sumner. Sumner showed out with 13 points in 19 minutes, shooting 6-8 and using all six fouls. Sumner’s athleticism was well on display as he showed a lot of different skills in his ability to put the ball in the basket, including this stellar layup.
Domantas Sabonis had a double double of his own, scoring 15 points with 12 rebounds, but struggled with turnovers, getting whistled for two traveling violations and three offensive fouls to lead the team with six turnovers. The new-look Myles Turner had some nice moments, scoring 11 with a pair of blocks, including a monster jam early.
Overall, however, Turner didn’t look all too unfamiliar though his 21 minutes felt like a flash compared to others. With Sumner fouling out late, that opened the door for Aaron Holiday to get a few minutes, using those to earn a couple of trips to the line, scoring three on 3-4 from the line.
The Pacers are still nearly two weeks from the start of the regular season, but they didn’t look in typical preseason form. They dove for loose balls, worked to force turnovers, and came away with the better effort (though that’s not really much of a deal at this point). In some sense, it would be preferable they let up, but if this team has one speed, telling them otherwise is hard to do.
Indiana’s preseason schedule continues on Saturday when they travel northeast to face the Memphis Grizzlies in Tennessee.