The starters (sans Thaddeus Young) returned to action in the penultimate preseason showcase and it showed well for the Indiana Pacers, who had little trouble running all over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers jumped ahead for good early in the first quarter, leading by as many as 24 in the third quarter.
Transition baskets helped the Pacers find a groove, outscoring the Cavaliers 16-3 in fast break points. The success Indiana found in pushing the ball was a thing of beauty, as evidenced by an early break that saw a Myles Turner rebound turn into a T.J. Leaf layup with just one dribble from Darren Collison.
Much of this success was helped along in no small part thanks to Victor Oladipo, who returned to action, scoring a game high 23, including 19 in the first half, on 6-7 shooting.
The speed of Oladipo and Collison was a big key in the ease of which the Pacers were able to score. The duo combined for seven assists and six steals. Collison especially was lethal in forcing turnovers as the Pacers converted on all four his steals, all within five seconds of the turnover.
Despite being the preseason, the Pacers looked comfortable. Leaf, who had his best game of the preseason said as much afterwards. Leaf finished with 13 points and six rebounds, continuing to show an impressive knack for bringing in offensive rebounds, scoring two putbacks off of the boards.
Edmond Sumner continued his impressive preseason, finishing with 14 points in 18 minutes. Not only was he a threat scoring the basketball, including a 2-2 night from three point range, but he made plays elsewhere, finishing with three steals and three assists. That even included a beautiful save to Domantas Sabonis under the basket in the first half.
The midrange game betrayed Indiana’s bigs throughout the night, but Sabonis made the most of his play around the basket, finishing with another double double of 16 points and 12 rebounds. Myles Turner finished just 3-9 shooting, missing all six of his shots outside of the paint, but was a force defending the rim with three blocks, including opening up transition opportunities.
Tyreke Evans was much more in tune with the game tonight, not only in his passing, finishing with six assists, but scored 14, hitting a pair of threes. He did this while committing just a single turnover, coming on an offensive foul rather than an errant pass. Late in the game, Sabonis and Evans picked apart the Cavs on the pick and roll, quelling any hopes of Cleveland being able to top off their comeback.
That comeback was made possible, however, in large part thanks to John Holland burning Doug McDermott time and time again in the fourth. McDermott overall had his best game of the preseason, but it’s easy to see where he could be a defensive liability if the coaching staff isn’t quick with adjustments.
And sure, it’s the preseason, but the league’s 19th most watchable team was a blast to watch tonight. While there are still real question marks with how this roster will compete with top tier wings and where the Pacers will be on nights like this when someone like Bojan Bogdanovic goes missing, it’s easy to be optimistic based on these games because they’re still finding success in the things that made them so good last year, right down to Oladipo taking nothing for granted.
One thing these games is doing however is whetting the appetite for the regular season to start. That’s still a week and 48 minutes away as the Pacers wrap up exhibition play on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls.