FC Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich – Barcelona look a shadow of the side that dominated the sport a decade ago.

Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich

10 years ago FC Barcelona beat Manchester United 3-1 in the Final of the UEFA Champions League at Wembley Stadium so convincingly; it was actually quite terrifying. Fast forward a decade later and the Catalan club now look a mere shadow of the once formidable European giants they once were.

Under the command of popular manager Pep Guardiola, Barça had just won their second Champions League crown in three years in London. They played with confidence, flair and with a style everyone could only sit back and admire. ‘Tiki-Taka’ was used by pundits and commentators alike to describe this new way of playing which very quickly revolutionised the game before our eyes.  Now under the watchful eye of former player Ronald Koeman, the Catalan club are worlds away from those heights after a 0-3 home drubbing to German champions Bayern Munich last night at Camp Nou.

Barça looked lost and out of ideas. They struggled to really challenge the Munich defence with any meaningful attacks and instead seemed content on keeping men behind the ball and try to frustrate their German visitors. In the end they were tactically inept against their Bavarian opponents.

The young Julian Nagelsmann, who managerial trajectory is following a similar pattern to that of 2011 Guardiola, has already got Bayern playing a free-flowing, high-pressing offensive style that Koeman and co couldn’t handle. It was like the ghosts of that infamous Barcelona side from a decade ago had turned up, possessed the away side, and taught the current crop of Barça stars a lesson in their own back yard.

Summer signing Memphis Depay was an isolated onlooker up front with limited service from his teammates. He was probably wishing he had an Antoine Greizmann or a Luis Suarez to partner him up the top of the pitch. Alas, this is not that team either anymore.

The home side was crying out for some magic, some inspiration to come from nowhere. They were crying out for Lionel Messi.

Many were intrigued by how Barcelona would fare in their first European match without their hero after a summer of turmoil saw to his abrupt and shocking exit from the club. An attempt to launch what was an absurd idea of a European Super League was a seismic failure, and club president Joan Laporta has been left trying desperately to clear the truckloads of debt the club had accumulated under the previous regime ever since.

This saw many players head for the exit including Messi – arguably the greatest footballer to ever don the infamous red and blue stripes of Barcelona. This was something many believed was impossible. Messi lived and breathed the city. If he was a prince, then Camp Nou was his castle. The Argentine himself cried during his farewell press conference, admitting he was ready to sign a new contract extension at the team he so dearly loved – but in this tale there was to be no happily ever after for player or club. With Barça confirming that Messi had no future at the Spanish giants, he received a royal reception days later at Paris Saint-Germain after agreeing a two-year deal with the French club. This was quickly followed by the departure of Greizmann, who joined former Barça striker Suarez at Spanish champions Atletico Madrid on deadline day earlier this month.

Senior household members of the team that stayed at Barcelona, such as Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique, have all had to take substantial pay cuts in order for the club to register new signings such as Depay, Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia, due to La Liga’s salary cap restrictions.

It’s not been all doom and gloom. Barça have got off to a decent albeit unimpressive start domestically. A 4-2 win on the opening day against Real Sociedad was followed by a 1-1 draw at Bilbao. A hard-fought 2-1 victory over Getafe at the weekend sees Koeman’s side currently seventh in the La Liga table, undefeated and on seven points with a positive goal difference.

But Champions League nights are special in this part of the world. Barcelona haven’t won the competition since 2015 – and their fans are desperate for the team to regain the European Cup they cherish so much. They have played decent sides in La Liga so far this season, but Bayern Munich are a different animal together and they proved last night just how far Barcelona have fallen in a very short space of time.  

The Bavarian side were comfortably better in every department. Bayern’s press was relentless, they moved the ball quickly and accurately, they created more goal-scoring opportunities. If it wasn’t for a lack of composure in front of goal and a couple of decent saves from Marc-André ter Stegen then the away side could have had five or six goals to their name and no one would have complained.

Camp Nou is only operating at 40% capacity due to the ongoing pandemic, but even then there were plenty of pockets of empty seats all around. Messi’s departure has descended the club’s attendance into low numbers unseen in my lifetime, when usually there are queues upon queues of supporters scrambling for the best seats in the house. Usually a fortress to behold, especially on European nights against the biggest clubs the continent has to offer, Camp Nou was unusually quiet for a majority of the 90 minutes – but in these uncertain times the atmosphere was missing just as much as the tiki-taka Barcelona style we have became all too familiar with over the past 10 years or so.

I wonder whether Guardiola, Messi and co from that team a decade ago on that beat Manchester United at Wembley would believe you if you told them that Barça would only go on to win the Champions League only once more in the next 10 years. Whether they would believe that a team as mighty as Barcelona would go from a possession-based, attacking style of play to a defensive, men behind the ball, counter-attacking style like the one we saw last night?

One is right to fear for this once great European superpower. It is a transitional period for the club and football fans know how long those periods can take. Barcelona probably will bounce back from this and challenge amongst Europe’s elite once again in the future – the question is how long will it take them to reach those levels again or am I wrong? Could the class of 2011 be the last hurrah of this great club?

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #9 Review: Detroit Pistons

Indiana Pacers (5-4) 112-106 Detroit Pistons (4-6)

Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Date: 08.11.2019

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

T.J. McConnell had his best game in an Indiana Pacers (5-4) uniform to date, as he led the Blue & Gold to a 112-106 victory over central division rivals Detroit Pistons (4-6) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers have now won their last four in Indianapolis after losing their first home game of the season to the Pistons on opening night. Victory also gives Indiana the chance to tie the four-game series between the two teams, after Detroit won the previous two encounters.

It was another encouraging performance given the ever-growing injury list that Nate McMillan has had to deal with. Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb, Edmond Sumner, Goga Bitadze and Victor Oladipo all sat out on Friday night. The depth in the squad is much deeper than in previous years, with plenty of options now available to the Indiana coaching team once everyone is back healthy.

The match itself illustrated just how the season has unfolded for this Blue & Gold team. The first quarter was simply not good enough defensively, as the Pistons threw down 35 points and led by as many as 15 points. Communication wasn’t established between the starters, as Andre Drummond and Luke Kennard happily gobbled up the easy looks presented to them.

Then it clicked. The Pacers were resolute defensively and kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely. After that 35-point first quarter, Indiana only conceded 37 in the second and third quarters combined to turn the game in their favour. A 14-2 run towards the end of the first half gave the Blue & Gold a half-time lead which they never gave back up.

The next man up mentality, which has seemed to give this team an almighty boost, was continued by T.J. McConnell, who ran the show when he was the court. McConnell easily dribbled into the paint all night and either scored the bucket or found the perfect pass to a teammate to slam the ball home. He finished the night top-scorer with 17 points, including eight consecutive points in the third quarter, as the Pacers established a lead which rose as high as 17 points at one point.

17 seemed to the number of the night, with TJ Warren and Domontas Sabonis also ending the game with 17 points to their names. Domas also gathered 14 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.

In their previous matchups with Detroit, two factors had a heavy bearing why the Pistons came away with both wins – Andre Drummond and the bench. Drummond, who gathered 41 rebounds in the last two matches, only managed 13 this time around largely thanks to Sabonis and JaKarr Sampson. With four fouls to his name, the big centre couldn’t risk getting fouled out and had to be more conservative defensively in the second half.

The bench had been outscored by the Pistons bench on opening night and in Detroit last week by a combined total of 69 points. Last night, Indiana smashed Detroits second unit 51-28, with Doug McDermott getting into double figures for the second game running.

Indiana have gone 5-1 since their 0-3 start to the season and now sit over .500 for the first time this year. The Pacers will now look to continue their steady progression at the Orlando Magic (3-6) on Sunday.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #7 Preview: @ Charlotte Hornets

Opponents: Charlotte Hornets (3-3)

Venue: Spectrum Centre

Tip-off: 7pm ET, 12am GMT

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The Indiana Pacers (3-3) will be looking to make it four wins on the bounce as they travel to North Carolina to take on the Charlotte Hornets (3-3) at Spectrum Centre.

The Blue & Gold have very quickly eradicated fears of an early season slump after starting at 0-3, but have now got up the precious .500 mark needed stake a claim for a play-off spot in the Eastern Conference.

Impressive wins over the Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls last week has coincided with better performances from the bench and fringe players. Goga Bitadze and T.J. Leaf had standout games in particular. Bitadze began to show why Indiana chose him in the draft in the summer after producing an excellent 10 points, none rebounds and four blocks against the Cavs on Friday night, whilst Leaf secured a much-needed double-double against the Bulls on Sunday.

Injuries have plagued the Pacers in these opening two weeks of the season with Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and Edmond Sumner joining Victor Oladipo on the sidelines. Whilst this leaves the Pacers much lighter than usual, they still have enough to sting the Hornets in their own back yard.

One such weapon is ex-Hornet Jeremy Lamb, who faces Charlotte for the first time since swapping North Carolina for Indiana. Lamb has impressed since returning from a hip injury picked up on the opening week of the season. He was quiet against the Bulls, so expect him to respond against his former team.

Charlotte may have an identical record to the Pacers on paper, but the performances haven’t exactly been phenomenal. In the games they have won, the Hornets have edged out teams in a similar bracket to theirs. When they have been beaten, they’ve been beaten hard.

After losing their star point guard Kemba Walker in the off-season, Charlotte have struggled offensively. Only twice so far have they totalled over 101 points in a game, however they are shooting very well from behind the arch with the fifth-best 3-point shooting percentage (38.5%). This will no doubt be their strongest asset at Spectrum Centre, with Marvin Williams shooting just under 50% from 3-point range.

Indiana’s defence have been impeccable since the second half of their match in Detroit a week ago. They will be confident that they can hold the Hornets to a two-digit score for the third match in a row between the two teams to secure that fourth straight win.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #4 Review: @ Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn Nets (1-3) 108-118 Indiana Pacers (1-3)

Venue: Barclays Centre

Date: 30.10.19

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

A monster performance from Domantas Sabonis ensured the Indiana Pacers (1-3) finally claimed their first win of the NBA season, as they defeated the Brooklyn Nets (1-3) 118-108 at Barclays Centre.

Sabonis finished with 29 points, two-shy of his career-best, with ten of those coming in the fourth quarter. The Nets couldn’t find a way to defend the big Lithuanian, with DeAndre Jordan committing a series of fouls when trying to defend him.

Most of the starters made massive contributions last night. Jeremy Lamb returned to the starting line-up following a slight hip injury and made an instant impact. He was shooting 3s and easy looks from the get-go, as he finished with 25 points to his name. T.J. Warren ended with 20 points, whilst Malcolm Brogdon secured a fourth consecutive double-double with 21 points and a career-high 13 assists. By the end of the night Indiana had shot 46.9% from the field in what was an impressive night on the offensive end.

However, more injury woes beckon though for the Blue & Gold. Myles Turner got through around three quarters of the first quarter before spraining his ankle following a collision with Garrett Temple. He was helped by teammates as he gingerly made his way back to the locker room, but it’s more than likely that the Pacers will be without their big centre for the next few games.

The rotation was better from an Indiana standpoint. Aaron Holiday and Goga Bitadze came in and did well, whilst Doug McDermott was solid in defence and shot some crucial 3-pointers earlier on in the game just as Brooklyn looked to put a run together.

Kyrie Irving was the Nets biggest threat and top-scored for Brooklyn with 25 points, but once again a leaky defence condemned them to a second consecutive loss and a 10th defeat in 11 meetings with Indiana. With 19 turnovers and multiple passes that flew out of bounds, the Nets look like they are also a team trying to get a feel for one another, after eight new players came through the doors in the off-season.

As the Pacers avoided an 0-4 start, which hasn’t happened since the 1988-89 season, attention now turns to Friday night’s rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2) back at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #4 Preview: @ Brooklyn Nets

Opponents: Brooklyn Nets (1-2)

Venue: Barclays Center

Tip-off: 7:30pm ET, 11:30pm GMT

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The Indiana Pacers (0-3) finish their three-game road trip at the Barclays Centre against the free-scoring Brooklyn Nets (1-2) this evening.

Monday’s defeat at the Detroit Pistons (2-2) was a tough one. The team performed much better, particularly in that second half. The team’s chemistry – especially among the starting line-up – is evidently getting stronger, which is promising heading into November. The Brooklyn Nets will be no easy place to go this season, so the Pacers will need to perform like they did in that second half in Michigan if they are to get the win.

Kyrie Irving must be stopped at all costs. Signed in the summer from the Boston Celtics (2-1), Irving has led the charge on the scoring front. He put down 50 points on his debut and averages a league high 37.7 points per game. Alongside the Milwaukee Bucks (2-1), the Nets are averaging a massive 124 points per game. Despite signs of improvement in their last outing, the Indiana defence is still nowhere near a final product. It could be another long night on that front.

However, for all their firepower offensively, the Nets have not backed that up on the defensive end. A 134-133 overtime defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies (1-3) last time out was a bitter pill for them to swallow. Without being able to hold a team under 109 points in any of their previous three games, the opportunities to score high will be there for the Pacers.

Malcolm Brogdon has three double-doubles to his name and is currently the leading assist maker in the league, averaging just over 10 a game. Domontas Sabonis comes in off the back of a 21-point score in Detroit, as he looks to continue averaging over 20 points a game. Both men will need to lead the line offensively again tonight, but this game is there for the taking.

It is the 27th best offence against the 28th best defence in the league at present. If the second unit can finally put up decent numbers off the bench and the team manage to sink more 3 attempts, then there is no reason why Indiana cannot pick their first win of the season tonight.

It will also be imperative that the Pacers play four solid quarters. In their previous three games the Blue & Gold have been let down by one or two poor 12-minute phases which ultimately leave them too much to do. We saw that in the fourth on opening night, second last Saturday and first on Monday. If Irving is on it and this Nets team get away and obtain a 10 or 12-point lead early on, then it could be curtains early doors.

The Pacers may be buoyed by the possible return of Jeremy Lamb, who practised with the team yesterday. Lamb has missed the previous two with a slight hip injury and could come back into the team or make an appearance off the bench should Nate McMillan decide to mix it up a little to try and solve the low scoring issue.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #3 Review: @ Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons (2-2) 96-94 Indiana Pacers (0-3)

Venue: Little Caesars Arena

Date: 28.10.19

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

The Indiana Pacers (0-3) are the only side in the Eastern Conference to have not won a single game this season, after falling to an agonisingly late 96-94 defeat to the Detroit Pistons (2-2).

It was the second time in just five days that the Pistons have beaten the Blue and Gold, but the Pacers did begin to eradicate some of the errors they’ve made in their previous matches.

Andre Drummond, Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard all struggled to replicate their high scoring form from game one, which was largely due to Indiana’s defensive resilience.

The Pacers’ bench remains to be this team’s achilles heel. They were outscored convincingly once again, which must now begin to worry Nate McMillan. Justin Holiday has come in and done okay, but the likes of T.J. McConnell and T.J. Leaf need to do more offensively if they are to keep their place in the Pacers pecking order.

Brogdon had a quieter night but still managed to make it a third successive double-double. Domantas Sabonis was the biggest scorer of the night as he scored 21 points.

Detroit managed to keep Indiana at arms length through the first 36 minutes of this contest, but it was in the fourth quarter where the tide began to turn. Both Markieff Morris and Drummond committed four fouls each and subsequently left on the bench, as Pacers pushed hard. For the first time, we saw structure and defensive organisation, with rebounds being won on both ends of the floor.

However, for all their hard work at the back of the court, the Pacers struggled to capitalise offensively. The Pacers trailed the whole game until late in the fourth, with T.J. Warren dropping a lovely 3 in the corner to give Indiana a 94-90 lead. Kennard responded with a 3 of his own that, unfortunately for the Blue and Gold, went in via a ricochet off the rim which could have dropped anywhere. With a one point lead the Pacers only needed one more score which would have probably sealed the deal. If only it was that easy.

Brogdon struggled to shoot 3s all evening and missed two long-range opportunities before Rose drove to the hoop for the Pistons to give them a 95-94 advantage.

With one timeout left, Indiana had time on their side to try and get to the free throw line through a Detroit foul. Warren had eight seconds to play with, which was unbeknown to him. Panicked and feeling rushed, he threw the ball towards needlessly towards the basket, which was never going to go in. The Pacers then quickly fouled Kennard, who got to shoot twice from the free throw line. He scored one. With it a two-point game with two seconds left. Indiana knew a score would at least take it to overtime.

They went with the same move that secured a late win over Sacramento Kings (0-4) in India during the pre-season, with Warren the man to shoot. His shot rebounded back off the rim, and the game was done.

Lady luck is not on Indiana’s side at the moment, but the signs of improvement are there ahead of what will be their final game of this three-game road trip at the Brooklyn Nets (2-2) tomorrow.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #3 Preview: @ Detroit Pistons

Opponents: Detroit Pistons (1-2)

Venue: Little Caesars Arena

Tip-off: 7pm ET, 11pm GMT

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Everyone will be expecting a more dogged performance from the Indiana Pacers (0-2) this evening, as they head to Michigan for an early season rematch with the Detroit Pistons (1-2).

The Pistons won the first encounter between the two teams on opening night in Indianapolis, but the Pacers have every intention to repay the favour as they search for their first league win of the campaign.

In order to do so, they will need to tighten up defensively and make sure they are the aggressors early on. Both Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon have echoed in the locker room previously that Indiana need to force their way into the game early on and control the tempo.

One man that caused Indiana havoc when the teams last faced off was Andre Drummond. His 32 points and 23 rebounds were instrumental in that Pistons victory, as well as his surprisingly accurate free throw shooting. Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard will also need to be watched much more carefully around the perimeter. It is unlikely they will shoot as freakishly well as they did last week against the Pacers, but if given an easy look or plenty of room to set then they will punish Nate McMillan’s fragmented team.

Victory over the Pacers on opening night remains Detroit’s solo win this season, having dropped their last two games at home. They will be desperate for get a first victory in front of their fans, but the challenge for them is to accomplish that with all-star Blake Griffin.

Jeremy Lamb is ruled out once again, which means Edmond Sumner will continue in his place in the starting lineup. The clash at Little Caesars Arena could offer a lifeline to Aaron Holiday, who wasn’t involved at all in Saturday’s 110-99 defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers (1-1). He’s got the ability to stamp his mark on a game, as proven last year when he reached double figures in over a dozen matches.

The Indiana bench was blown out the water by their Detroit counterparts last week. They will need to emphatically improve on the measly 16 points they managed to score first time around. It could be last chance saloon for the likes of TJ Leaf if they don’t roll their sleeves up and prove their worth to the cause.

Brogdon was the lone bright spark in Cleveland on Saturday with his 30 points, but he will need to be supported better on both ends of the floor by Sabonis and Myles Turner. The team are near the bottom of the team stats for defence, which is surprising given Turner’s blocking ability.

A win in Detroit will go a long way for the Indiana Pacers. Not only will it level the four-match series between them and the Pistons, or relieve some pressure off of the board, coaches and players’ shoulders. It will more importantly provide some much needed hope for the supporters, who are starting to worry about what this season holds for the Blue and Gold. Confidence is a huge factor in this sport, and the longer a winless run goes on, the worse it plays on the minds and bodies of all involved with the organisation.

That first Victory could be just what this team needs to get the shackles off ahead of a busy week.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game#2 Review: @ Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers (1-1) 110-99 Indiana Pacers (0-2)

Venue: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse

Date: 26.10.19

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

A nightmare second quarter for the Indiana Pacers (0-2) left them with too much to do in Ohio, as the Cleveland Cavaliers (1-1) condemned the Blue and Gold to a second successive league defeat.

A lack of discipline and questionable defending on Saturday night meant that the Pacers had, to a point, self-inflicted on themselves a second loss of the season. Now standing at 0-2, Indiana have endured their worst start to an NBA campaign since 2015-16.

The second quarter was clearly where Cleveland won the game with a merciless 17-0 run, which extended their lead up to a mind-blowing 24 points at one point. Their 62-48 half-time lead was never going to be reversed. It was just a case of by how many points were the Pacers going to lose by. 

One big positive to come out of the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse was Malcolm Brogdon, who is already justifying he can be the point guard that escalates this team to a higher level. The former Milwaukee man top scored on the night with 30 points and was aggressive with the ball by constantly getting into the paint and scoring baskets. He became the first NBA player to ever record at least 20 points and 10 assists in their first two matches for a new team. Victor Oladipo must be relishing forming a partnership with Brogdon once he returns to action. 

The other big players – Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner – struggled to replicate their scoring success from opening night. They only banked 14 and 11 points respectively, however Turner did manage to get his first double-double of the season with 11 rebounds.

With smaller number in the points column, both had to be tighter defensively, but once again they struggled to cope with the opposition’s forwards. On Wednesday, Andre Drummond commanded the paint. Last night in Cleveland, they were either out of position or fouled their opponent who’d go on to shoot from the free throw line – especially Kevin Love. 

Many have been left to wonder if Thaddeus Young had still been with the organisation, would he have done a better job dealing with Love and Tristan Thompson? Probably. But what good would it do to really go into this in detail?

Other errors from the defeat on opening night were escalated further, as the Pacers were out-rebounded, outscored in the paint and allowed the Cavs to score easy 3s. Seven fouls in the opening six minutes and 12 in total after one quarter was just too many to concede. With the high foul count, the Pacers were forced to defend the basket with more care in the second quarter. Instead of tightening up, they became softer and were bullied by the young Cavs. 

Veterans Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson were key to the Cavs impressive scoring in the first half and ended the game with 21 and 25 points respectively. In the second quarter Cleveland scored 70% from 3-point range due to easy openings Indiana presented them with. 

Edmond Sumner provided a bright spark in the first half for Indiana, but he committed two early fouls in the third, which left him stranded on the bench for the rest of the evening. If he is to fill in for Jeremy Lamb until he recovers from a hip injury, then he needs to try and restrict his foul count and spend  more time on the floor.

Goga Bitadze did come on for his NBA debut in the first quarter, and managed to sink his first points in the league. The 20-year-old Georgian only managed four minutes though before leaving with a sore knee. However he shouldn’t miss any of Indiana’s next few matches. 

This was the first of a three game road trip for the Pacers, who now travel to Michigan for a rematch with the Detroit Pistons (1-2) on Monday night.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #1 Review: Detroit Pistons

Indiana Pacers (0-1) 110-119 Detroit Pistons (1-0)

Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Date: 23.10.19

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

Well that was an unexpected start to the 2019-20 NBA season for the Indiana Pacers (0-1), who fell to an opening night defeat to Central Division rivals the Detroit Pistons (1-0) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

A slow start to the first quarter and a tiresome end in the final quarter compounded the Blue and Gold to a first opening home loss since 2015. Whilst this new-looking Pacers side will no doubt need a dozen games before starting to gel together, question marks will be raised over some of the cracks exposed by a Blake Griffin-less Pistons team many tip to only just make the end of season play-offs.

Victor Oladipo, who looked slick in his blue suit, addressed fans at Bankers Life before tip-off by stating that this was going to a ‘special’ season. That may still come to fruition, but on these very early indications, maybe we all need to just wind down the expectation levels a little bit.

It wasn’t going to be the perfect performance – those are very rare for NBA teams on opening night. Many say it isn’t about how you start but how you finish the regular season. The second half of the campaign should be a phase where best case scenario Oladipo is back playing all-star level basketball, with the rest of the roster all injury-free and knowing one another like peas in a pod. It is imperative however, that at the start of the season you don’t find yourself playing catchup in the play-off hunt going into the new year.

This opening defeat may not be the start fans and the team was expecting, but there were plenty of positive signs to take from Wednesday night.

Two of which are Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, who made their presence known on the floor. Turner ended the game with 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Sabonis also impressed with his first double-double for the season (29 points, 13 rebounds). One of the big questions ahead of this game was whether or not these two could play alongside each other. In some cases it worked wonders, at other times it had it’s flaws.

Defensively they looked okay. The absence of Griffin made Sabonis’ night slightly easier marking Markieff Morris  – who only managed eight points. However both came up stuck against the like of Andre Drummond and against better, smaller, more agile opposition they will need to improve drastically. The lack of 3 attempts, especially from Sabonis, is also something that would need to work on. Turner sunk four 3 attempts, but he needs to be making five or six at least if Indiana want to average 30 attempts to score 3s every game.

Whilst it was the old guard who shone brightest, it was a mixed night for the new starters in the Pacers team. Malcolm Brogdon’s 22 points on debut is not bad reading, as he showed early signs of his formidable accuracy at the free throw line, range of passing and leadership qualities on the floor.

Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren however were more like bystanders, with both only scoring 10 points each and constantly nursing what looked like minor hip injuries. Warren was forced off with just under four minutes to play after a heavy fall, but x-rays have come back negative and he shouldn’t miss any game time.

Despite their slow start, Indiana ramped up the pressure in the second and third quarters. They obtained the lead for the first time just before the half, and at one point found themselves ahead by nine with the score 73-64.  Snippets of a team capable of a deep run in the play-offs were shown, but when Andre Drummond is against you, you know you’re not going to get it your own way.

The Centre ended the night one shy of his career-best score with 32 points and 23 rebounds for the Pistons, and he wasn’t the only man in Detroit colours who put in a freakishly good performance.

Luke Kennard will haunt the dreams of Indiana fans over the next few nights. His career-best 30 points from the bench was pivotal in getting the Pistons over the line. His 16 in the fourth quarter equalled what the Pacers bench tallied up in total – and that was between six men. Derrick Rose embraced the skillset which made him MVP in 2011, as he posted 18 points and nine assists again from the Detroit bench. Overall the benches were on totally different ends of the spectrum with Pistons outscoring their Eastern Conference rivals 57-16.

Communication in defence will be the major hole to fill – with Detroit making the most of easy 3 point attempts. With Indiana’s top defensive players focused on stopping Drummond getting in and around the frame, Kennard was able to gulp up every mid-range shot he could get his hands on. More structure on the defensive end will again come with each game played – but this should be an early wake up call for Nate McMillan’s team going into this winnable stretch of fixtures.

The Pacers will now go on to play three away matches – starting with a trip to 2016 NBA Champions Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #1 Preview: Detroit Pistons

Opponents: Detroit Pistons (0-0)

Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Tip-off: 7pm ET, 12am BST

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

HERE…WE…GO!!!

It has been a long, long summer but finally the 2019-20 NBA season is off and running.

The Indiana Pacers open their account tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against fellow Eastern Conference rivals the Detroit Pistons.

This is the fourth year in a row that the Pacers will open their season at home, having won their previous three. They have also won eight of their previous nine meetings with tonights opponents at Bankers Life.

The pre-season offered fans plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the team’s offensive prowess. Indiana averaged 119 points in their four matches. Scoring like that will see them win more games then they will lose over the course of the 82-game regular season.

With All-Star Victor Oladipo out until at least Christmas, acquiring players who can score was imperative for Head Coach Nate McMillan and co over the summer months. Instead of putting all their eggs in one basket and attempt to get another big name to fill the void, the Pacers were shrewd with their off-season business. Signing a group of players who strengthen plenty of areas where the team lacked last season has in many ways made more people excited for what this team can achieve over the next eight months.

Whilst they are still outsiders to win the Eastern Conference, some will see them as a team much more capable of doing so than 12 months ago. Improving on their 48-34 record and fifth-place finish has to be the target, and if they can get to that magic 50 wins for the regular season, home court advantage in the play-offs would be a considerable achievement in itself.

NEW FACES IN THE STARTING FIVE

Three of the starting five will be new summer acquisitions in Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren and Jeremy Lamb. Brogdon, who joined the Pacers from Milwaukee, comes off the back of a very impressive 2018-19 where he became just the eighth player in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 Club (averaging over 50% for field goals, 40% three pointers and 90% from the free throw line over the course of a season).

Warren, signed from Phoenix Suns, surprised many when he scored a massive 30 points on debut against the Sacramento Kings in India. He has the potential to average 20 points per game for the season. With those numbers, he is the perfect supplement to Oladipo once he returns as the two men leading the scoring charts for Indiana.

Lamb is a competent all-round player. Last year he was the Charlotte Hornets’ second-highest points scorer, averaging 15.5pts. He also has good handles, can get to the basket and defend well when required.

With any new team though, there will be a period where the team need to gel. Things will not be perfect on opening night, as the players begin to understand one another. Injuries pending, these five can expect solid spells in the starting five before Christmas, and it shouldn’t take long for them to settle.

TURNER + SABONIS

With Domantas Sabonis extending his stay in Indiana on Monday, we will now definitely see whether he can link up with Myles Turner in the Pacers starting lineup. The two – dubbed by the media as the ‘twin towers’ – have the ability to make a deadly duo. Turner makes more blocks than most in the NBA, whilst Sabonis is better in offensive positions and scoring baskets.

Will it work though? We’ve seen it at the New Orleans Pelicans with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, and at the Pistons funnily enough with Griffin and Drummond. Both cases success is relatively low.

Playing two big men together works against some teams, but not all. In order for this alliance to fully blossom, Sabonis will need to be able to defend against the smaller, quicker power forwards in the league. We will see how he fares tonight, especially with the news coming out of Detroit about one of their star men.

NO BLAKE GRIFFIN FOR DETROIT

All-Star Blake Griffin misses tonight’s matchup with a hamstring problem, which is a huge blow to Dwane Casey’s team. The forward comes into the season following one of his best seasons in the NBA. In 2018-19 he averaged 23.5 points per game, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He was instrumental as the Pistons recorded 41-41 for the season which earned them a play-off place for the first time in three years.

STOP DRUMMOND, POSSIBLY STOP PISTONS

6’11 centre Andre Drummond will now be the main threat for Detroit tonight. Ranking highest in the league for rebounds for the previous two seasons, Drummond could be a handful for the likes of Turner and Sabonis in and around the rim on both sides of the floor.

However, despite his defensive game winning over many plaudits, his offence does let him down at times. He’s tried to improve his free throw shooting and ball handling, so it will be interesting to see what he can conjure up this evening.

Should he struggle to make baskets, and with less depth in their roster, the Pistons may struggle for points altogether in Indiana. The likes of Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard will need to capitalise on Drummond’s ability at the pick-and-roll as that could be their most devastating weapon in their arsenal if executed well enough.

Drummond is starting his eighth season with the Pistons, and the 26-year-old will be hoping the team improves, especially with his contract up next summer and talks of a trade intensify. The Pistons should be in and around the play-off picture come April, but time will tell as to whether this roster has what it takes to mount a serious challenge on their Eastern Conference rivals.