After relying heavily on the starters in the first of two games in India against the Sacramento Kings, the Indiana Pacers turned to the bench after yesterday’s overtime win and there was no letdown to report. Trailing at the end of the first quarter, the second unit took control of the game, outscoring the Kings 21-5 to open the second en route to a 49-point quarter.
The Pacers wrapped up first half play up 71-59, with the Indiana bench outscoring Sacramento’s 50-14. Among the most impressive notes from the bench’s dominance was that they were able to explode in the second quarter against Sacramento’s starting lineup. After the Kings scored three in response to Indiana’s 21-5 run, Edmond Sumner took control, scoring 10 points in the final six minutes of the half to help maintain the double figure advantage.
Sumner was not only scoring with ease, but the way in which he was getting there was what was most impressive. Sumner’s highlights included crossing over Buddy Hield
and then racing coast to coast in the final three seconds of the half.
If concerned about the amount of room on the Edmond Sumner bandwagon, rest assured the availability of players worth jumping on a bandwagon for were not in short supply for the Pacers. Sumner didn’t even reach the top four in scoring despite his dazzling second quarter performance.
Alize Johnson led the way for the Pacers with 17 points, pulling in eight rebounds, four on the offensive glass. He also hit two three pointers, in perfect reception from T.J. McConnell, who had his own highlights in terms of passing the ball and then later in terms of ultimate hustle plays where a diving pass steal turned turnover immediately resulted in another McConnell steal.
T.J. McConnell at his most T.J. McConnell pic.twitter.com/01YSIUGii7— Caitlin Cooper (@C2_Cooper) October 5, 2019
The unselfish play of the Pacers was in part led by McConnell, who had a game high eight assists. The particular play above ended with three passes at the rim before Amida Brimah slammed it home. Aaron Holiday came in behind McConnell in the rotation and played with a real focus in response to it. It led to some out of control play from Holiday, but he was also full of crafty veteran moves by drawing frustration fouls on opposing players.
Two of his three assists went to Justin Holiday, who himself had an impressive outing with 14 points and five rebounds, going 3-3 from beyond the arc. The elder Holiday was one of six Pacers to hit multiple three pointers on a night when the team was a lights out 15-29. The ability to hit the long ball helped open things up inside, where the Pacers again dominated the Kings, outscoring them 60-28.
JaKarr Sampson joined his fellow bench members in double figures with 15, looking much more in tune with his role offensively, hitting a pair of threes and doing the rest of his work at the rim. In addition to a pair of big time blocks from Brimah, the Pacers also got their first look at Bruce Bowen II in the preseason. Bowen was immediately active, attacking the glass for a failed putback that Johnson would put in, and scored his first bucket of the preseason in confident fashion.
Among the starters, three reached double figures in their 19 minutes of action, including 11 from Jeremy Lamb and 10 from Domantas Sabonis. Early foul trouble from both Myles Turner and Malcolm Brodgon helped Sacramento early in building a first quarter advantage, with Brogdon going scoreless in his 19 minutes, shooting 0-6, but dishing five assists.
Turner meanwhile played very well, scoring 12 points with five blocks, one in the third quarter coming right after a three pointer. T.J. Warren finished with six points, but struggled to match the shooting performance he did yesterday, shooting just 2-7 and 1-4 from three point range and unfortunately his game included some continued defensive lapses that can hopefully be worked out as the season progresses.
It could be encouraging to see that the Pacers had no letdown as a team, especially in terms of effort, which can hopefully signal some ability to rely on the second unit on nights like this when starters like Warren or Brogdon may not have their scoring in tow. Of course, one of the great curses of the Pacers is that the moment it appears they have a reliable second unit, it’s January and they’ve invested in pumpkin futures.
All in all, there were no major qualms to take away from how the Pacers performed in these two games. Whether any of it actually translates into the regular season remains to be seen, but it was an exciting couple of days, the trip to India bringing life to the preseason in a way that usually isn’t there. Carrying that excitement and energy into the next two preseason games could be its own challenge as the Pacers will be back home again in Indianapolis, starting with a matchup against the Chicago Bulls on Friday.