INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- The Indiana Pacers are back from their one game road trip to Detroit, where they beat the Pistons 115-112 to get their first win of the 2015-2016 NBA preseason. The Pacers will host the Orlando Magic for the third game of their preseason schedule. This will be the second night of a back-to-back for the Magic as they played the Miami Heat in Louisville, Kentucky on Wednesday.
The Pacers are viewing the preseason as a valuable tool to further improve the execution of their team's new offensive scheme, and the same for their overall team defense since they have drastically different personnel this season. Indiana has gone through massive change and they believe that the preseason is a fantastic time to fine tune their execution on both sides of the floor.
Indiana has already shown growth in the early stages of the 2015-2016 season. The Pacers looked lost offensively in their preseason opener against the Pelicans, as their defensive rotations as a team were poor, and they simply couldn't execute in many key areas of the game. But that changed when they played their second game against the Pistons. Indiana came out and had a much more efficient offense, as they had better spacing and offensive timing, they had a better feel for their teammate's tendencies, they did almost all of the fundamental aspects of basketball well, their defensive effectiveness was improved, and their team defensive rotations were much better.
That goes to show that patience is key when going through massive change. With more and more team practice time, individual skill development, film study from game situations, and real application to games, the Pacers are able to improve each day and get familiar with, not only their system, but with each other. That goes back to the whole patience and time aspect. The Pacers just need to learn how to apply this identity change, get better at executing both offensively and defensively with it, and go from there.
The Pacers are trying to see how often and when they can play with their small-ball lineups. Until they are familiar enough and are able to execute at a high level consistently, the Pacers have learned that they can really thrive using this philosophy and style against other teams that go small at power forward. They are not good enough at this style to be able to dictate games with it, so they can't force it when going against a good traditional power forward like Anthony Davis, as seen in their first preseason game. That doesn't mean they can't get good enough to use it all the time, but right now they need to continue to grow using small-ball before they can get to that point, which is why the preseason and more practice time is so valuable, because they can use it to learn and gain experience in real situations.
Indiana stated that they wanted to average six to eight more points per game in this upcoming season, which they have so far in the preseason. The offense averaged 97.3 points per game last season and has averaged 107.5 points per game in the preseason so far, which is absolutely ideal as a team. But the defense has allowed 111.0 points per game, of course there are many contributing factors and reasons, but that is what needs to be addressed next. The Pacers haven't been able to focus on their team defensive rotations as much as they would like to since they have to spend a lot of time on their new offensive scheme. Indiana has been able to work on their defensive rotations in practice more following their second preseason game, but they will work on it a lot more as they need less time to focus on their offense. This game against the Magic should be a great indicator of where their team defense is currently at.
Projected Starting Lineups:
George Hill | Monta Ellis | C.J. Miles | Paul George | Ian Mahinmi
Elfrid Payton | Victor Oladipo | Tobias Harris | Channing Frye | Nikola Vucevic
Solomon Hill (sprained ankle) - out
Chase Budinger (sore hamstring) - out
Ian Mahinmi (sore knee) - questionable
George Hill (sprained ankle) - questionable
Aaron Gordon (fractured jaw) - out
The Magic is an example of an ideal team for the Pacers to use their small-ball style of play against. It all starts with Paul George and he has a massive miss match in this game against Channing Frye. George has the ability to get whatever wants against Frye offensively, but most importantly, there is nothing in Frye's game that George can't stop defensively. That's always going to be the main concern in the early stages of the team's identity shift; can Paul George effectively defend his man from an individual stand point?
If George Hill doesn't play in this game tonight, Joseph Young will most likely see a major increase in minutes. Rodney Stuckey and Toney Douglas could possibly see an increase in minutes as well, but the team would like to give Young as much experience as possible before the season starts. Young would basically play a complimentary piece on offense where he focuses on spacing the floor, moving without the ball, defending his assignment, team defensive rotations, taking care of the ball, and making plays when the opportunity presents itself. A possible matchup against Elfrid Payton could be a great test for Joseph Young.
Ian Mahinmi is still questionable for this game as well. If Mahinmi isn't good to go tonight, Jordan Hill will probably get the starting opportunity as he did in the team's second preseason game. This will result in more minutes for the bench big men like Lavoy Allen, Rakeem Christmas, and Shayne Whittington. Myles Turner and Jordan Hill have a pretty much pre-determined range for playing time that won't change unless a plethora of injuries occur. It would be a great opportunity for some of the bench players to showcase their skills and prove themselves.
With Solomon Hill and Chase Budinger both out for this game, Glenn Robinson III will get plenty of opportunity to play. C.J. Miles has a pre-determined range of playing time so his playing time probably won't see too much of a change. Paul George will most likely see some minutes at the small forward position, but he is a very favorable matchup at power forward so there isn't much reason for it unless they want to experience running a different offensive look with George at small forward and a traditional big man at power forward. These injuries should also give C.J. Fair a significant increase in minutes from his original amount of playing time.
There really are no keys to this game for the Pacers since they are treating this as a way of gaining experience. It is simple, just simply go out there and execute what has been done in practice in regards to team offensive and defensive concepts, as well as the basic fundamental aspects of individual basketball. By individual aspects of basketball; take care of the ball, make open shots, box-out when the shot goes up, etc. In an early stage of a drastic identity change on both sides of the ball, it is particularly important for each individual to be fundamentally sound and do a lot of the small aspects of the game with high rates of effectiveness. It is a learning process and the bigger picture is in mind, so going out there and remaining disciplined is important.
There should be plenty of opportunity for the Pacers' key young players to gain valuable playing time against the Magic. Injuries have presented the team's top two draft picks (Myles Turner & Joseph Young) with potential major role increases to showcase their skills. With two previous games of NBA experience, the rookies most likely have gotten all of the nervous feelings out of their system, meaning that their actual capabilities should be on full display, as they were last game against Detroit. Both Turner and Young struggled in their first preseason games, but they both bounced back in their second.
Last game, Joseph Young had 18 points, two rebounds, three assists, shot 5 of 10 from the field, shot 1 of 3 from the perimeter, and shot 7 of 7 from the free-throw line, but he still had four turnovers. Young is looking to improve his ball control as he gains NBA experience. It is great to see Joseph Young have a great turnaround performance from his preseason debut, and he will be looking to build on this performance going forward.
Last game, Myles Turner had eight points, six rebounds, one steal, two blocks, one turnover, and one foul. Both fouling and turnovers are key areas that Turner has been focusing on before the regular starts. He does not want to be a liability for the Pacers. He has Rookie of the Year aspirations, staying on the court by limiting fouls and turnovers should allow for him to get enough minutes to be a valuable member of the team.
Paul George is coming off a sensational individual scoring display. Last game, he scored 32 points off 10 of 17 from the field, 5 of 9 from the perimeter, and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line. George scored 20 of these points in the opening quarter to help set the tone early for the Pacers' offense. George's signature effective defense didn't show up in the box score, but it was certainly there as well. Highlights from this performance can be seen below.
Paul George Highlights vs. Detroit Pistons (10/6/15):
There is no television broadcast for this game, unless you have NBA League Pass (subscription required). The local radio broadcast for the Indianapolis market is 1070 The Fan. Tip-off is at 7:00 P.M. Eastern at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.