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INDIANAPOLIS – A highly anticipated Pacers’ regular season did not disappoint on opening night.
Strong play on the defensive end of the floor and an improved bench led to the Pacers coasting to a 111-83 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse witnessed a Pacers’ bunch dominate the paint and control a game in a way last year’s team could not.
The Pacers outrebounded the Grizzlies by 29—the highest for the team in 15 years—and finished with 44 more points in the paint than Memphis.
“We really made that an emphasis in our Training Camp,” McMillan said of the rebounding after the convincing victory on opening night. “It was a big penalty if you gave up rebounds in the paint. When we were scrimmaging, if they gave up an offensive rebound, I gave the other team 3 points. Just to get them focused and conditioned to go to the paint.
“We finished our drills with a shot and a rebound, as opposed to a lot of times you stop the drill, you shoot the ball and then you get the next team on the floor. We played everything through, until the ball was rebounded.”
That major emphasis paid off in game No. 1.
The 83 points allowed by the Pacers were more than 20 points below last year’s season average of 104.2 per game.
Victor Oladipo’s night of work was only 26 minutes, as the All-Star struggled a bit early, before finishing with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
The Pacers were led early by Bojan Bogdanovic who carried a sloppy beginning for the starters. Bogdanovic paced the starters with 19 points.
Indiana’s big man combination of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis was productive on Wednesday. Turner missed the entire second quarter due to foul trouble, but still finished with 8 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in 20 minutes. Sabonis had 14 points and 15 rebounds, in 28 minutes off the bench.
Tyreke Evans added 14 points and 6 assists.
For the Grizzlies, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol combined to go just 5-of-22 from the field as Memphis shot a woeful 29.8 percent from the floor.
Three Pacers’ Takeaways:
- Rebounding Message Heard, Executed. Remember that top priority for Nate McMillan this season? Yep, his team answered it on opening night. The Grizzlies pride themselves on grinding things out in the paint. But the Pacers bullied them on the backboards. They outrebounded Memphis 17-4 in the first quarter, and finished the night +29 on the glass. Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis sent an early message with their paint presence. What a far cry from the last time we saw the Pacers in Game 7 of April’s playoffs.
- Bench Has Some Firepower: Upgrading the bench, and adding shooting, was a big focus for Kevin Pritchard this offseason. That unit made an immediate impact on Wednesday night. Tyreke Evans, even with an off jump shot Wednesday, showed off the on-the-ball creativity the Pacers were hoping for, and putting shooters around him only makes things more effective. The Evans/Sabonis pick and roll had a couple of beautiful connections on Wednesday. Even with Victor Oladipo quiet and Myles Turner on the bench for the entire second quarter, Indiana’s lead swelled to north of 20 points. That’s something we never saw last season. This team went how Oladipo went in 2017-18. They extended their lead to 21 points on Wednesday night, despite their All-Star being held field goal-less for the game’s first 19 minutes and change. Indiana had 4 bench players in double figures (Evans, Sabonis, Cory Joseph and Doug McDermott) on Wednesday.
- A New Myles Turner On Display: The stat line didn’t scream $18 million man. But Turner (8 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks) flashed on Wednesday a couple of moves that we aren’t used to seeing out of the young big man. Twice, Turner took Marc Gasol off the dribble and finished. The real highlight came in the third quarter when Turner put it on the floor with his right hand from outside of the paint, before spinning into a left-handed hook shot. Turner finished the night with 8 rebounds, but 5 of those came in the opening quarter when Indiana asserted its control in the paint, and in the game. Turner rebounded the ball, defended the rim and more than held his own in defending one of the best big men in the NBA.
Injury Note: Second-year forward T.J. Leaf went down late in the first quarter with a left ankle sprain. He did not return. Leaf was in obvious pain after the injury and hobbled to the bench before heading to the locker room for the rest of the night. The Pacers had Leaf as their 10th man on Wednesday night. Leaf entered the game when Myles Turner picked up his second foul in the first quarter.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-@Bucks (Friday, 10/19)
-Nets (Saturday, 10/20)
-@Timberwolves (Monday, 10/22)
-@Spurs (Wednesday, 10/24)
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