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

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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#2 Review: @ Cleveland Cavaliers

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

Venue: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse

Date: 26.10.19

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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 #2 Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

Opponents: Cleveland Cavaliers (0-1)

Venue: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse

Tip-off: 8pm ET, 1am BST

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After dropping their first game of the new NBA season, Indiana Pacers (0-1) will look to bounce back with a trip to 2016 NBA Champions Cleveland Cavaliers (0-1) tonight.

The Pacers could be without Jeremy Lamb, who is still struggling with a slight hip injury. T.J. Warren has recovered from his nasty fall on Wednesday and is expected to start for the Blue and Gold at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

The Cavaliers also lost their first game of the new season, falling 94-85 to Orlando Magic. Cleveland are coming off a tough year after losing LeBron James to Los Angeles Lakers last summer. They only won 19 regular season matches in 2018-19 and whilst many predict them to slightly improve on that record this time around; they are not expected to mount a serious play-off challenge.

One thing the Pacers have overwhelmingly over the Cavaliers is experience. Cleveland’s roster is made up of a majority of players with less than three years’ in the NBA. Their new coach John Beilein has never managed a league franchise, as is learning on the job as well as his players.

Indiana should therefore be comfortable in controlling the game in Ohio, forcing the young Cavs to cause a few mistakes in the process. The fact it is Cleveland’s home opener shouldn’t go amiss, and hopefully the atmosphere inside Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse doesn’t distract the Pacers.

Kevin Love will be the main threat and arguably the most recognisable name for the Cavaliers, Veteran centre Tristan Thompson top scored on opening night for the Cavs with 16 points. He has come into the season with aggression in his game, which has seemingly made him more efficient. In Thompson’s career stats he averages around 9 points a game, whilst in Cleveland’s first pre-season game he netted 26 points. Again in their second game he scored 15 points – and shows no signs of slowing his aggressive nature. At 28-years-old, he could still be a huge asset to Cleveland this season and beyond should he extend his current deal, which runs until the end of the season.

The Cavs also have two promising young stars in the point guard position: Collin Sexton and rookie Darius Garland. Sexton also scored 16 points against Orlando Magic as he showed his speed and agility with the ball in hand. However, with Sexton the prominent PG at the moment, Garland has had to shift to Shooting Guard, a position he has not yet accustomed to. Malcolm Brogdon may use this to his advantage, and if Lamb does start the pair could cause the young Cavs a few headaches on Saturday night.

From a Pacers point of view, improved team chemistry will be the thing most fans and pundits will be looking out for. The roster seemed to enjoy a team bonding evening in Cleveland last night and have had more time on the practice courts over the past couple of days, as they continue to acclimatise to their new teammates.

As for the two big men – we should see Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner both score in and around the 20 point mark again. They should have the strength and skill to command both ends of the floor tower as they will not have to deal with someone as good at rebounding the ball as Andre Drummond like on opening night.

The second unit must also do better coming off the bench. 16 points off the bench was simply not good enough last time out. Nate McMillan used 11 players on opening night and could do a similar thing tonight as he tries to find combinations that work. T.J. McConnell and Edmond Sumner did well in phases, but neither sufficiently affected the game.

Going into tonight’s game the Pacers have enjoyed recent success against Cleveland. They have won seven of the last nine meetings, including a 3-1 series victory last season.

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

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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

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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.