Bankers Life Fieldhouse was brimming with excitement on Wednesday night, as the reloaded Pacers roster took to the court for the first time in the regular season.
For stretches on Wednesday, the Pacers looked like a team capable of making a deep playoff run. But for other stretches, they looked like a team with nine new players and four new starters still learning how to play together.
In the end, Indiana (0-1) fell to the Detroit Pistons (1-0) on Opening Night presented by Kroger, 119-110.
Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and Malcolm Brogdon all topped 20 points for the Pacers, but it wasn't enough to beat their Central Division rivals.
Detroit — playing without All-Star forward Blake Griffin — got monster performances from starters like Andre Drummond (32 points, 23 rebounds, four blocks, and three steals) and reserves like Luke Kennard (30 points on 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range).
"I think it was just one of those games where the feel wasn't there," Turner said. "I think even at the start of the game, we just didn't feel like we did in the preseason. It's faster now."
The Pacers might have had a little too much adrenaline at the start of Wednesday's contest based on their sluggish start. The Blue & Gold went scoreless on their first eight possessions with five missed shots and three turnovers before Nate McMillan took an early timeout trailing 6-0 with 8:04 left in the first quarter.
That seemed to right the ship, as Sabonis used his spin move to score the first Pacers points of the season with 7:56 left in the opening frame.
Indiana got a nice boost off the bench from third-year guard Edmond Sumner, who tallied six points on 3-of-3 shooting and three steals — two on consecutive possessions shortly after checking in — but Detroit still led the entire opening frame and took a 27-24 advantage into the second quarter.
"We are just trying to look for a combination that works for us," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said after the game. "We went with 11 guys and went with another 10 in the second half, looking for a good combination that will give us a good rhythm and could flow on both ends of the floor defensively as well as offensively."
The Pistons remained in front for most of the second quarter until Turner's putback dunk off a T.J. McConnell miss gave Indiana its first lead of the night with 42.9 seconds remaining in the first half. Tony Snell's baseline jumper briefly put the Pistons back in front, but two free throws by Brogdon with 3.7 seconds left in the second quarter gave the Blue & Gold a 55-54 lead at the intermission.
The Pacers' defense allowed them to open up a larger lead in the third quarter. Indiana held Detroit without a point for a 4:49 stretch, reeling off 13 unanswered points over that stretch to turn a four-point deficit into a nine-point advantage.
On the offensive end, Sabonis tallied 10 points in the third quarter alone, while Turner and Brogdon added eight apiece.
The Blue & Gold led by as many as nine points in the frame, but a late 3-pointer by Kennard trimmed Detroit's deficit to 86-83 entering the fourth quarter.
The Pistons retook the lead on Kennard's step-back jumper with 7:41 remaining in the contest. Indiana moved back in front after back-to-back three-point plays by Sabonis and Jeremy Lamb, but Kennard took over again.
Drummond's tip-in trimmed Indiana's lead to 101-99 and then Kennard drained threes on the next two Pistons possessions to put the visitors back in front.
The Pacers trailed 105-103 when T.J. Warren drove down the lane and rose up for a potential tying layup with 3:46 to play. Warren collided with Thon Maker and took a hard fall. He remained down for a significant stretch before being helped off the floor by the training staff.
To add insult to injury, Warren was whistled for a charge. That seemingly deflated the Pacers, as Detroit reeled off the next eight points. Snell hit a 3-pointer, Drummond added a seven-footer, and then Kennard hit the dagger — his third three of the quarter — to extend Detroit's lead to 10 with 1:24 remaining.
"It was a lack of communication," Brogdon said. "Kennard was just getting open shots. They were executing, and we were not, on the defensive end."
Sabonis led Indiana with 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting and 13 rebounds. Turner added 25 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks, while Brogdon finished with 22 points and 11 assists.
Fellow starters Warren and Lamb added 10 points each, but Indiana's six reserves who saw the floor combined for just 16 points.
Derrick Rose had 18 points and nine assists off the bench for the Pistons, while Snell added 10 points.
The Pacers will now embark on a three-game road trip that begins in Cleveland on Saturday and continues with a rematch against the Pistons in Detroit on Monday.
Inside the Numbers
After recording a team-high 30 double-doubles last season, Sabonis recorded another in the 2019-20 opener.
Brogdon had a double-double for just the fourth time in his career and the first time since Nov. 3, 2017 (also against the Pistons).
Turner tied his career high with four 3-pointers, accomplishing the feat for the fifth time.
Kennard's 30 points were a career high. He scored 23 points in the second half and 16 in the fourth quarter.
Drummond's 32 points were just one shy of his career high. It was his 33rd career game with 20 or more points and 20 or more rebounds.
You Can Quote Me On That
"We never could contain Rose, their bench and Kennard. I thought Rose didn't miss a shot in the first half, then Kennard in the second half, coming off the bench — we didn't have answer for him guarding those guys. We've got to do a better job. They were grittier. I thought they scrapped a little harder than we did." -McMillan
"I feel like we need to bring more energy. It's on all of us and we just need to keep fighting until the last minute. Even if they make a quick run, we have to stick together." -Sabonis
"I think it was effort plays. We got outworked tonight, I think. That's one thing we hang our hat on here in Indiana, is outworking people. So, I think we got outworked and they were a little grittier than we were. There’s some stuff we have to clean up." -Turner
"I thought that Luke came out in the second half and really shot the ball well. Thought Andre had a presence in the paint offensively and defensively. He played 40 minutes, so he had a huge presence on both things on the floor." -Pistons coach Dwane Casey
"My coaches and teammates keep encouraging me to be aggressive, they kept telling me that I was passing up shots...they want me to shoot the ball whenever I have any kind of space. All the guys found me when I was open so credit to them, and the coaches who called some great plays, so we got good looks." -Kennard
Stat of the Night
Detroit's bench outscored Indiana, 57-16, as both Kennard and Rose outscored the Pacers' reserves on their own.
- Warren was diagnosed with a bruised hip. He underwent x-rays, which came back negative.
- Prior to Wednesday, the Pacers had won three straight and eight of their last nine home openers. Indiana's last loss in a home opener came in a 112-103 loss to Memphis on Oct. 29, 2015.
- Griffin did not travel to Indiana and has been ruled out until at least November with left hamstring and posterior knee soreness.
- Pacers owner Herb Simon attended the game and celebrated his 85th birthday on Wednesday.
Indiana travels to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 8:00 PM ET.
After a three-game road trip, the Pacers return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to host Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, Nov. 1 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets »
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