FORT WAYNE, IN -- The Indiana Pacers play their final game of their 2015-2016 preseason tonight. Their final opponent of the preseason will be the Charlotte Hornets. Tip off for this game is at 7:00 P.M. EST at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel stated that the Pacers will be treating this game like a real game. This means that the starters will play the amount of minutes that they normally would during the regular season. However, there a few key inactive players so the rotation won't be the same as it will be during the regular season by default.
Indiana is dealing with a few key inactive players tonight; Monta Ellis is out with an upper respiratory infection, and Jordan Hill is out with a sore lower back. Ian Mahinmi could potentially be inactive as well, as he is dealing with a hip pointer and is listed as questionable. Myles Turner was inactive last game, but he will play against the Hornets.
The Pacers stated that Turner could see up to 25 minutes in this game. It will be interesting to see if he plays more since Jordan Hill is out, especially if Ian Mahinmi is ruled out as well. But all signs point to Ian Mahinmi playing tonight, but Turner's minutes likely won't change if he does in fact start.
With all of their injuries, the Pacers are expected to use the following as their starting lineup for tonight; George Hill, Chase Budinger, C.J. Miles, Paul George, and Ian Mahinmi. It is unknown what type of lineup the Pacers have decided to use against the Hornets, but regardless of the matchup, injuries may force them to go with a small-ball rotation.
Frank Vogel talked to the media during the team's morning shootaround in Indianapolis. He told the media that the normal starters (Paul George, George Hill, Ian Mahinmi, and C.J. Miles) will play over 30 minutes in this game, but they will be taking a look at a few position battles for the "non-locks" of the starting unit. With Monta Ellis and Jordan Hill out tonight, it appears that they will have plenty of opportunity to evaluate those position battles.
The biggest position battle that will be evaluated tonight will probably be that Chase Budinger versus Solomon Hill battle. The Pacers' official website listed Budinger as the projected starting shooting guard for this game. With a small-ball lineup, Hill should get plenty of minutes coming off of the bench, meaning that both players will get plenty of minutes for evaluation.
With the Pacers not giving Glenn Robinson minutes last game, it appears that he won't be in the rotation during this season. He was viewed as a developmental player for the future, but his impressive preseason performance has sparked debate regarding his worthiness of a rotation spot over Solomon Hill and Chase Budinger. For reference, Chase Budinger and Solomon Hill both played last game, which means that the Pacers have probably narrowed that position battle to just Hill and Budinger.
Injuries will cause their rotation to look different tonight, but here is what it is projected to be:
PG: George Hill, Joseph Young
SG: Chase Budinger, Rodney Stuckey
SF: C.J. Miles, Solomon Hill
PF: Paul George, Lavoy Allen
C: Ian Mahinmi, Myles Turner
For reference, when the team is healthy, this is what their small-ball rotation is expected to look like:
PG: George Hill, Joseph Young
SG: Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey
SF: C.J. Miles, Chase Budinger
PF: Paul George, Jordan Hill
C: Ian Mahinmi, Myles Turner
In terms of strategy, the Pacers will just continue to improve the execution of their new offensive strategy, as well as their defensive execution with a small-ball lineup. They will have less offensive weapons tonight because of injuries, but the team is still looking to fine tune the spacing, timing, and chemistry of their new offense in both the starting and bench units.
Indiana has improved their defensive execution with their small lineup, but they are still trying to get better. Indiana has done well defending small-ball against small-ball, but they have struggled with defending small-ball against traditional lineups with two big men. Charlotte is expected to go with a traditional lineup tonight with Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson as their starting frontcourt, which should make for a good test for the Pacers.
Paul George, George Hill, and C.J. Miles will be relied upon heavily for offensive production with Monta Ellis out. Ian Mahinmi and Chase Budinger don't provide much offense from an individual skill set stand point, but they are support players. So expect Paul George and George Hill to handle the ball a lot tonight, and C.J. Miles to handle the ball some as well.
The second unit will be getting Myles Turner back, but they will be getting Lavoy Allen instead of Jordan Hill. Rodney Stuckey and Myles Turner will be the focus for the second unit, Joseph Young will be as well but to a lesser extent. Lavoy Allen and Solomon Hill will basically have a support role as usual.
Indiana has found the most success on offense when playing in their small-ball lineup. There hasn't been much offensive concern or problems at all with it. In fact, the only real concerns have been building chemistry, learning teammate tendencies, and just simply executing on shot attempts. Making shots simply comes down to rust in real game situations, which is why this period of time is called the preseason.
The Pacers' small-ball defense against traditional lineups has struggled with their defensive rotations in team concepts. This is a hard thing to get down, but it just takes repetitions and time. Indiana has specifically struggled with doubling down on power forwards when they are in post-up situations. The added speed of this lineup is supposed to help Paul George defend big men in the post by sending a double team.
If the Pacers' defense can effectively defend traditional power forwards in their small-ball lineup, then the change will be worth it. This is because of the fact that their small-ball lineup gives them the most individual offensive production, the best floor spacing, and the best fitting offensive roles. Their 4-out, 1-in offense, boosted tempo, and added space will allow for their play-makers to significantly improve the team's overall offensive production from last season since it puts their best players in the best situations to succeed.
Charlotte has a few injuries to report as well; Kemba Walker (left heel contusion) - questionable, Jeremy Lamb (sprained right ankle) - out, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (right shoulder surgery rehabilitation) out. Their projected starting lineup is; Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, and Al Jefferson.
Tip-off for this game is at 7:00 P.M. EST. Television viewers can view this game on Fox Sports Indiana. Radio listeners can hear the broadcast on 1070 The Fan. NBA League Pass is required for out of market viewers to watch and listen to this game, because this is not a nationally broadcasted game.