Even though it was preseason, the Pacers logged yet another ‘Culture Win’ in Houston on Thursday night. Using a formula they relied on frequently last season, the Pacers beat the potent Rockets 110-100 in large part because they tried harder over the 48 minute game.
Effort is a primary consideration when living up to Nate McMillan’s ‘don’t eff with the game’ standard and with Victor Oladipo always setting the tone on the court, the rest of the team has to fall in line.
So even when the half-court offense is clunky, as it was often on Thursday, this Pacers team keeps trying to find ways to make plays. T.J. Leaf and Edmond Sumner were fun to watch as McMillan stuck with a 9-man rotation throughout the game, save for some late minutes for Aaron Holiday.
Houston played the game similarly with most of their starters playing 30 minutes, so the game was a pretty good test to see where the Pacers are starting out for a preseason opener. But James Harden, Carmelo Anthony and at times Chris Paul don’t mind playing in third gear at times, while the Pacers are looking to floor it.
The Pacers won the fourth quarter, and scored the last points in each quarter, exemplifying their effort to play through the whistle (or scoreboard buzzer). Of course, the Pacers have more to build than the Rockets at this time, but playing with a consistent high level of effort is the only way to get where they want to this season.
Another part of that team culture is their chemistry off the court which was in full display shortly after the team plane landed in Memphis on Friday. Thad Young grew up in Memphis and hosted an event for local youth. Naturally, several teammates joined Young to add some juice to the event.
There were no friendly waves with eyes looking toward the door. Instead the kids enjoyed the full Victor Oladipo experience which meant there was lots of smiles, laughter and energy. Hopefully, the Pacers keep bringing that juice when they face the Grizz on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET.
This Twitter thread captures the fun had by the players and kids on Friday night.