GAME RECAP: Pacers 118, Mavericks 111
T.J. Warren scores 20 points and grabs 7 rebounds as Indiana beats Dallas 118-111.
T.J. Warren scores 20 points and grabs 7 rebounds as Indiana beats Dallas 118-111.
July 26, 2020 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan, Victor Oladipo, and Myles Turner speak to the media following Indiana's 118-111 victory in a scrimmage against the Dallas Mavericks in Orlando.
July 26, 2020: T.J. McConnell and Doug McDermott link up for a McDermott dunk.
July 26, 2020: From the ground, T.J. McConnell gets it to Doug McDermott for a layup.
July 26, 2020: A Myles Turner block leads to two for Malcolm Brogdon.
July 26, 2020: Victor Oladipo nails a three from way beyond the arc.
July 26, 2020: Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon connect for two.
July 26, 2020: Myles Turner uses an outlet pass to get the ball to T.J. Warren
July 26, 2020: Victor Oladipo uses a nice pass to find an open Malcolm Brogdon.
July 26, 2020: Victor Oladpido's great pass leads to two for the Blue & Gold.
July 26, 2020: Justin Holiday and Myles Turner both get blocks, and it leads to an Edmond Sumner dunk.
July 26, 2020: Victor Oladipo gets the steal and finishes at the other end.
July 26, 2020: Myles Turner gets to the rim for two.
Plenty of Promise in Pacers' Performance
The Pacers were doing this before the NBA season was shut down. Now they're doing it again in the second set of preseason games as the league regenerates the season.
They're teasing you, making you ponder all the what ifs, whetting your appetite for more. But, sorry, you'll just have to keep waiting.
Their 118-111 victory over Dallas in Sunday's exhibition game at HP Field House in Orlando bore a strong resemblance to a...to a...well, for now let's just say a really good team. They started slow defensively (nothing new there) by allowing the Mavericks 37 points in the first quarter and the end-of-bench guys struggled to maintain the lead the final half of the final period, but between those ends they showed the means to win a lot of games.
Myles Turner made his debut after sitting out Thursday's exhibition opener and looked sharp. Better than sharp, really. Invigorated, perhaps. He finished with 15 points on just eight field goal attempts, grabbed eight rebounds, passed out a few assists, and blocked two shots. All in 24 minutes.
Victor Oladipo looked every bit as good as he did when the season was stopped in its tracks, scoring 16 points while hitting half of his eight 3-point shots, grabbing seven rebounds, and passing out three assists.
Malcolm Brogdon, who missed the early practices in Orlando after being quarantined for two weeks because of a positive test for the coronavirus, played a well-rounded game with 17 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
And, oh yeah, T.J. Warren. The Pacers' leading scorer led the scoring once again with 20 points, hitting 8-of-15 shots. It was a typically quiet and efficient game for him, going nearly unnoticed while filling in the cracks of the offense by knocking down his usual assortment of mid-range shots.
Something was missing, though. Seems like something — more precisely, someone — is always missing from the Pacers this season, just not the same someone. Right now, it's Domantas Sabonis, who left the NBA bubble in Orlando a couple of days ago for his offseason home in Los Angeles to ramp up treatment for his plantar fasciitis. His return is indefinite and he's likely to miss the early games when the regular season resumes, but the Pacers are hopeful he'll return at some point.
The Pacers had their anticipated starting five in just five games of their 65 games this season. The group has been seen together so infrequently, in fact, that their "Intended Starters" might as well be a fantasy team. Or a mirage. It has been sighted on rare occasions but then poof! It's gone, and you don't know when it's coming back.
Those four games, though, were intriguing. The Pacers lost the first one with that group in the starting lineup, against Brooklyn. You kind of have to forgive that one, being the first time and all. They won the other four, defeating Milwaukee, New York, Portland, and Cleveland. All five starters scored in double figures in three of them, and the low scorers had eight points in another one. The most recent of those games was the victory at Cleveland on Feb. 29, six games before the lockdown, when the scoring totals for the starters ranged from 19 to 30 points.
It could be, should be, a balanced unit that can win a lot of different ways. It could be, should be, a strong defensive team and one that's exceptionally difficult to defend. But we'll (still) just have to wait and see. It's a puzzle that is agonizingly difficult to put together because pieces always go missing. All of the starters have been injured at various points of the season, missing anywhere from three games (Sabonis) to 52 (Oladipo).
But when they do get together, they seem to find harmony awfully quickly. That showed even in Sunday's victory over the Mavericks among the four "Intended Starters," as each scored between 15 and 20 points. With Turner and Oladipo in particular having encouraging performances, one couldn't help but wonder what could happen inside that Orlando bubble if Sabonis were in the mix, too.
"We can be as good as we want to be," Oladipo said. "We have a lot of talent. A lot of guys can do a lot of great things here. At the end of the day we have to buy into each other and continue to support each other. When we get Domas back we can do special things."
Until Sabonis returns, Turner will return to the center position. Whether Turner is better suited to play forward or center is debatable given how well he was adjusting to playing alongside Sabonis when the season was suspended, but he's going to be a center at least for a while. He looked the part for most of Sunday's game.
There had been reports out of Orlando he was showing improved post play, but Sunday's game offered inconclusive evidence. The ball went to him on the game's first possession, but he missed a turnaround jump shot. He missed all three of his post-up scoring opportunities in the first half, in fact, but opened the third quarter with a turnaround shot over Dorian Finney-Smith that drew a foul and led to a 3-point play.
"I have to learn to be more patient," Turner said. "Every time I touched the ball, I rushed a little bit. That was a little more because of excitement and nerves from being back. I know it's something we're going to have to use, especially when teams start switching and (I'm going against a smaller defender). It's something I'll continue to improve on."
That element aside, Turner has shown improvement throughout the practices in Orlando. He was active against the Mavericks on both ends. He took the ball to the basket aggressively from the perimeter and hit his only 3-point shot attempt and more often than not switched off effectively on the perimeter on defense.
McMillan said Turner wanted to play more than 24 minutes on Sunday, but the training staff said no. That alone seems to reflect his refreshed mindset.
"I really like what I've seen from him since this restart," McMillan said. "He's come back and seems to have matured even more since that four-month layoff. He has a great spirit about him."
So, it seems, does Oladipo. Amid all the ongoing uncertainty over whether he will play when the regular season resumes — he still says he has no decision and no target date for one — Oladipo looks and sounds engaged with his teammates.
He was in his former All-Star form after the starters were reinserted midway through the second period. He hit a 3-pointer in transition, hit a long 3-pointer a couple of possessions later, then threw a beautiful one-handed pass off the dribble from one foul line to the other to Holiday, who fed Warren for a layup.
That highlight forced a Dallas timeout, but Oladipo hit a 3-pointer off a called play on the Pacers' first possession after the break. Moments later, he drove to the basket, found no openings, and reached around and threw a one-handed pass from the baseline to Brogdon for a 3-pointer. He added another assist to JaKarr Sampson off penetration later in the period.
Late in the game, when the Pacers' mop-up unit was struggling to preserve the lead, he was out of his assigned seat cheering on his seldom-used teammates.
"I went out there and did some good things," he said matter-of-factly. "Just have to keep building, taking it one day at a time, reassessing after every day. Just continue to keep my mindset. Keep working hard, continue to stay hungry and continue to attack every day the best I can."
While it's difficult to read anything into that — and again, Oladipo has not yet committed to playing in the remaining regular season games and playoffs — his statements regarding Turner at least sounded like someone who wants to be part of the team.
After praising Turner for his positive attitude, recent level of play and importance to the team, Oladipo concluded:
"He's always had the talent. Always had it. Now I have to be there to make sure he never forgets how good he is and continue to lift all my teammates up the best I can. We just continue to take steps in the right direction so we can do something special."
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Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.
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