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.