Tonight’s preseason game between the Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies had everything but the starters for both teams, giving the Pacers an extended look at their depth. It was an up and down sort of night for the second and third unit Blue and Gold, ending in an overtime loss after failing to hold onto a late fourth quarter lead.
Memphis’s Yuta Watanabe would hit a game tying three with 7.5 seconds left, setting up misses by both teams in an effort to end the game in regulation. Once in overtime, the Pacers fell behind, unable to erase a four point deficit after Elijah Stewart was ruled out of bounds on a corner three.
It was a tough finish, but the Pacers Twitter account offered up a comforting reminder as Indiana will move forward to their next exhibition showcase. The overall sense from tonight’s game for the Pacers, however? Everyone played hard, but there was a lot of times when no one seemed to play well.
As a team, Indiana had 27 turnovers, granting the Grizzlies 28 points off those turnovers. That helped Memphis win the fast break battle 19-10. The only reason the Pacers had an opportunity late to close out the win was due to their advantage on the glass. The Pacers outrebounded the Grizzlies by 18, pulling in 15 offensive rebounds, leading to 19 second chance points.
That rebounding effort was led by Domantas Sabonis, who secured a second straight double double, finishing with 17 points and 14 rebounds, seven offensive. Sabonis helped mask Indiana’s offensive struggles in the first half by scoring six second chance points. The Pacers would find a nice groove offensively in the third thanks to a pair of assists by Sabonis, along with four (of six) for Cory Joseph.
Joseph’s passing in the third quarter benefited Doug McDermott, who looked his most comfortable in the third, hitting back-to-back jumpers, including his lone three. There’s some level of expectations for McDermott, but it’s clear there will be some level of adjustment, especially when glancing at the game Tyreke Evans had in his preseason debut.
Evans whipped the ball anywhere and everywhere, finishing with 12 points and four turnovers, shooting just 3-11. Evans did work himself to the line well, but was just 5-8 when he got there. Along with T.J. Leaf, tonight’s starting lineup has a chance to be the go-to bench lineup early in the season, but the chemistry simply isn’t there yet, especially defensively.
The Grizzlies had good looks throughout the early stages of the game and they weren’t making up for the lapses with timely deflections; Joseph was the only starter with a steal in tonight’s game. In fact, defense was an issue much of the night for the Pacers, who seemed to be at their best when being bailed out by the Grizzlies.
The effort was there, however, especially with the bench players. Aaron Holiday would end up leading the Pacers in scoring with 20 points, hitting four threes and sparking the Pacers to a late fourth quarter lead by staying with the Grizzlies in transition, sending away two blocks in transition in the final four minutes.
The turnovers were a big issue for Holiday, however. While chemistry is again something he and fellow young guys will need to work to improve, that doesn’t explain everything with turnovers being one of Holiday’s biggest strikes coming into the league. Holiday finished with eight on the night, including two in the final 75 seconds of regulation and three more in overtime. They led to just three points, but it took away scoring opportunities for the Pacers when they needed them the most.
Kyle O’Quinn also made his preseason debut, scoring four points in 18 minutes, finishing with five rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. O’Quinn’s night wasn’t all that noteworthy on its own, but clearly looked like the veteran compared to the green play of the young guys.
O’Quinn’s defensive highlight came on an excellent recovery to a pull-up shooter for the Grizzlies. O’Quinn slid towards the dotted circle below the free throw line, but worked himself back towards the defender for a strong contest and miss. When compared to Alize Johnson whiffing late on picking up as a help defender, it’s obvious how the rotations will likely work out between the veterans and youth.
That’s not to suggest the young guys didn’t show up. Johnson neared a double double with eight points and nine rebounds and Holiday’s strengths were on display. Ben Moore did well on the glass with six rebounds and Ike Anigbogu returned to action with a six-point game. Elijah Stewart also offered up some very good minutes, including the overturned three in overtime.
Edmond Sumner appears to be the runaway pick in finding one of the young guys who can break in the rotation this season, however. Sumner continued to impress with his athleticism, but more than that, he looks the part, finishing with six points in 13 minutes, coming up with another highlight dunk.
The end result may have gotten a little sideways, but the game proved enjoyable in getting a glimpse into Indiana’s depth. Many things will need to be improved upon in order to make the latest incarnation of Indiana’s bench a successful one, but it doesn’t appear a lost cause by any means.