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

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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

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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

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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

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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 #3 Review: @ Detroit Pistons

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

Venue: Little Caesars Arena

Date: 28.10.19

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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 #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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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Lucas Pouille punctures Andy Murray’s comeback in Cincinnati.

The 24-year-old Frenchman defeated the double Wimbledon winner in three sets. 

Andy Murray’s comeback hit another bump in the road after defeat to Lucas Pouille in the first round of the Western & Southern Open.

Cincinnati is well known for being home to the famous Graeter’s Ice Cream, but unfortunately for Murray, his hopes for a decent tournament ahead of the US Open melted quickly in the Ohio sunshine.

It was his first appearance on court since pulling out of the Citi Open two weeks ago and rustiness showed as the former world number one began timidly against a fresher Pouille.

Whether he was still recovering from those titanic matches in Washington, or changed his approach, something wasn’t quite right from the outset. His serving was not up to scratch during the opening set, as he recorded six double-faults. He was broken three times by his French opponent, who closed out a comfortable first set 6-1 within 29 minutes.

The one positive the Scot could take from a lacklustre opening set was that he was winning the majority of points from the long rallies. However, Pouille hadn’t needed to get out of second gear and looked well on course to end the contest quickly.

But where most players would capitulate in such a situation, Murray rallied. His performance levels improved during the second set, and the roles were quickly reversed. The 31-year-old broke the 16th seed, before holding serve to take a 2-0 lead. The former world number one only made three unforced errors, and won more points on his first serve as he raced to take the second set 6-1, as the match went to a decider.

The tables then turned once again. Murray started the final set nervously and double-faulted the opening point, before being broken by a resurgent Pouille desperate to make amends for a poor second set.

Missed chances then cost the 31-year-old the match. He failed to convert a crucial break point before falling 3-1 behind. Despite saving a match point at 5-3, Murray was helpless as his French opponent served out the match to claim a 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 win.

Whilst this defeat will disappoint British fans, it was a first victory over Murray for Pouille at the fifth attempt.

The Frenchman has been a regular on the ATP Tour this season, with this being his 17th competition in 2018. Whilst he is gaining more experience on court and slowly climbing up into the world top 20, the 24-year-old can still be a loose canon on the court.

His performance against Murray showed why. His game heavily revolves around speed, and this can sometimes effect the accuracy and precision of his shots. Where he was clinical in the opening set, he lost composure during the second and mistakes began to creep in.

But he held his nerve in the final set, and found his range once again to hit some impressive winners. Pouille hit a total of 40 in the match as he defeated the former world number one in an hour and 53 minutes to book his place in round two.

Murray is not scheduled to play again until the US Open at Flushing Meadows, which begins on the 27th August. He now has four tournaments under his belt after missing a year out with a hip injury, but there is much that needs improving still – especially his serving.

He may take up a wildcard at the Winston-Salem Open next week after this defeat, but it will depend on whether his body can cope with another tournament just one week before the gruelling five-set matches at the final Grand Slam of the year.






MLS 2018: Despite his disastrous tenure at Aston Villa, Remi Garde is still quite a coup for Montreal Impact.

When Remi Garde left his position as Aston Villa manager in March 2016, his managerial reputation was in tatters. 

The 51-year-old Frenchman won just two of his 20 league matches in charge of the Villans, which culminated a win percentage of just 10%. It’s the lowest of any Aston Villa manager in the club’s history.

Yet, his unveiling as Montreal Impact’s fifth head coach in seven years is still quite a coup for the Canadian outfit and for the MLS in general.

Before his disastrous spell at Villa Park, Garde had worked up a rather impressive CV. As a player he won at least one trophy at every club he played for- including a Premier League title with Arsenal in 1997-98.

The former Lyon, Strasbourg and Gunners midfielder also saw success follow him in his early coaching career.

Garde took over from the dismissed Claude Puel at Lyon in 2011. During his time in charge of Les Gones he won two trophies – the Coupe de France and Trophèe des champions.

This resulted in him being linked to some of the biggest jobs in football – including a possible return to the Emirates to replace his mentor Arsene Wenger.

Whilst his ill-fated tenure at Villa has probably seen that opportunity fade away for Garde, the manager’s job at the Villans was at the time a poisoned chalice.

The club were rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, and the players at the club lacked the desire the 51-year-old demanded. A promise of January signings by Randy Lerner never materialised into nothing more than false pretences. You could therefore say that he had no chance of turning the fortunes of the club around.

It may surprise some that he’s decided to move halfway across the world for his new managerial venture at Montreal, but his appointment may prove to be shrewd bit of business by owner Joey Saputo.

The main issue will be the longevity of this partnership between Garde and Impact.

Montreal have a reputation in the MLS to hire and fire head coaches on a consistent basis. The 51-year-old becomes the franchises’ fifth in just seven seasons, and may need to get off to a strong start in order to keep the board happy.

On the other hand, the temptation and the glamour of European football could sway Garde back across the Atlantic Ocean should he do well in Canada. He only lasted at Lyon for three years before leaving for family reasons. Neither party likes to overstay their welcome.

The Frenchman is another recognisable manager to have joined the MLS in recent seasons as the league’s appeal continues to gradually grow. Former Barcelona and Argentina boss Tata Martino became head coach at Atlanta United last year, with Bob Bradley returning to the league to take charge at new franchise Los Angeles FC.

Garde has had all winter to prepare his team ahead of their opener against Vancouver Whitecaps this weekend. A key signing he has brought in is that of former Inter Milan midfielder Saphir Taïder to help bolster the midfield.

Last year was one to forget for Impact, with a ninth place finish in the Eastern Conference and 17th overall. But if Garde can find that formula that saw him win trophies with Lyon, he could make this Montreal side a real force in the league and regular post-season contenders.

Something that will surely have a positive impact on his dented managerial career and help him recover that early reputation of being one of the best in the business.