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Pacers drop second preseason game to Rockets
The Pacers were 0 for 2 on their preseason roadie, but brought home plenty of areas to work on before the regular season starts.
The Pacers lost their second preseason game on Tuesday night in Houston as the Rockets ran away in the fourth quarter to secure the 122-103 win.
There were no overarching observations to make about the Pacers after this one other than there is plenty of work left to do. Also seems safe to say that if Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner and Andrew Nembhard don’t play this year, the remaining squad would struggle to win 30 games. Maybe 25.
So, yes the Pacers that played struggled on the defensive end, fouled too much and didn’t shoot it well as a group. The starting five of Obi, Theis, Mathurin, Brucey B and McConnell played 18 minutes together and made 2 of 13 threes and shot 36 percent overall from the field. For a shooting bright spot, Bennedict Mathurin made all five of his free throws.
Three of Benn’s free throws came from technical calls on Houston. An away from the ball foul on Dillon Brooks and grabbing the rim on defense by Sengun. The next play after Brooks’ foul, the former Grizz instigator was tossed after cup checking Theis on a screen which quickly forced the Pacers big man to double over in pain. Nice intro to the home crowd for Brooks.
Rick Carlisle altered the rest of the rotation compared to the opener in Memphis. This time around, rookies Jarace Walker and Ben Sheppard ran with the second unit as Carlisle essentially used a 10-man rotation until a few minutes into the fourth quarter. Aaron Nesmith and Buddy Hield joined the rooks on the second unit with Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith splitting the center minutes.
The odd man out in this game was Jordan Nwora who only played in the fourth quarter mop up minutes. Nwora made sure they didn’t forget about him, though as he made a three shortly after entering the game.
So let’s just go through the good, bad and ugly, shall we:
The Pacers continued struggling to keep their opponents out of the paint. In fact, the Rockets were able to get the ball in deep to the rim on their first two possession. Theis was able to block Alperen Sengun’s dunk at the rim on the first possession, but the struggle was real. For the game, Houston scored 58 points in the paint. An improvement over the 78 in Memphis, but…yeah.
The Pacers had 18 turnovers and 31 fouls while losing the rebounding battle by 10. Not a winning combination.
Among the starting group, Bennedict Mathurin was the best player on the floor. Continuing to look comfortable as a key cog on offense, finishing with 14 points and 5 rebounds. It was by no means, Benn’s best effort, but he was productive under the circumstances…again, on the offensive end. He had three fouls including a senseless slap in transition that lead to a three-point play.
TJ McConnell was not the dynamic playmaker we saw in Memphis. Part of his struggles stemmed from having to deal with some rough defensive matchups. The Rocket have a lot of young, dynamic talent that was on the attack constantly.
Bruce Brown had similar struggles trying to slow down the Rockets, including Jalen Green. Brown had four fouls in his 18 minutes and missed all four of his three point attempts.
Nobody need Tyrese Haliburton more than Obi Toppin who finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds but seems to be floating around a lot on offense. His struggles on defense don’t help, since the lack of stops keeps the transition game in check. Toppin did have a highlight putback when an extra little bounce force him to hang in the air and change hands for the tip. Light work.
As for the second unit, Aaron Nesmith was a shining star, logging an efficient 18 points on just 9 FGAs. Nesmith is very active on the offensive end and making a strong case to be a key player in the rotation. Last season he was often a fifth scoring option in the starting lineup, but being a second or third option in the reserve rotation may be a perfect fit.
Ben Sheppard is also looking like he is willing to assume a role with the reserves if the minutes are available. He and Nesmith together make for a tough cover since they move around so well without the ball. In Sheppard’s case, if you lose him he has a three-ball ready to release. Shep was 3 of 7 from three land and finished with 11 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds.
Jarace Walker did not fare so well in his audition for the second unit. After a strong run in Memphis, Walker’s play was a bit clunky. He too is active, but seemed to be pressing when the ball found him and made just two of 10 shots. Also, something to continue monitoring is Walker’s rebounding effectiveness. And by effectiveness I mean literally grabbing the ball. Over the first two games, Walker has had his hands on a few rebound opportunities only to have the ball slip away. Not nearly enough opportunities to sound the alarm, but just something to keep an eye on.
So, the Pacers return to Indy for the remainder of the preseason with their annual FanJam event on Saturday which will include a spirited intra-squad game. After two practice games, there are still plenty of minutes up for grabs in the rotation and plenty of work in general for this crew to put in prior to the start of the season.
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