INDIANAPOLIS – Thursday saw the Indiana Pacers play a basketball game against another team.
That was the most important thing from Thursday’s 40-minute scrimmage between the Pacers and Trailblazers.
It was the Pacers, with their bench aiding things, ‘beating’ the Trailblazers, 91-86.
Victor Oladipo started, and played three separate stretches, in each of the first three quarters. In total, it was 19 minutes of action for Oladipo, scoring 8 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Oladipo was 2-of-5 from behind the arc, but didn’t attempt a foul shot. He grabbed 6 boards, had 1 assist and committed 3 turnovers.
Nate McMillan wanted to keep his starters under 20 minutes in playing time in the first scrimmage.
The Pacers were without their top three big guys on Thursday: Domantas Sabonis (foot), Myles Turner (calf), Goga Bitadze (knee).
As we saw a whole lot earlier this season, Warren was easily the most reliable scoring threat for the starters.
Warren finished with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Brogdon also scored 11 points, rebounding from a 1-of-6 opening half.
Down double digits early, Indiana received great minutes from its bench. Justin Holiday (16 points), Aaron Holiday (13 points) and Doug McDermott (10 points) all finished in double figures, with T.J. McConnell facilitating things (6 assists) for the second unit.
The Pacers will have two more scrimmages (Sunday, 4:00 PM: Mavericks; Tuesday, 4:00 PM: Spurs) before their regular season re-start opener on Saturday, August 1st (vs. 76ers). Both of those scrimmages will be a normal 48 minutes.
Three Things Learned
-Oladipo Starts: The Oladipo we saw (and expected) on Thursday looked eerily similar to the one shaking off rust back at the start of the calendar year. In 19 minutes—3 separate segments in each of the first three quarters—Oladipo finished with 8 points on 3-of-10 shooting, 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 turnovers. Oladipo wasn’t favoring anything injury wise, but he struggled getting to the foul line and relied mostly on his jumper. This was more often the norm at the beginning stages of Oladipo’s 13-game return earlier in the season. Oladipo did hit 2-of-5 from three-point range on Thursday, but was just 1-of-5 from inside the arc, and didn’t attempt a free throw. Nate McMillan stressed that Oladipo playing in these scrimmages isn’t an indicator one way or the other of him playing in the regular season re-start. McMillan said that topic has not been approached yet by either party. If Oladipo struggles in the next two scrimmages, would that sway him to sitting out the final 8 regular season games?
-Bench Still Delivering: It was fitting that the most consistent aspect of the Pacers this season (non T.J. Warren/Domantas Sabonis division) showed up on Thursday and was the main reason why Indiana ‘won’ this scrimmage. The bench of the Pacers got them right back into the game in the first half. It was a 5-man group of T.J. McConnell, Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, Justin Holiday and T.J. Leaf, with Edmond Sumner entering as the 11th man later in the second quarter (Sumner actually started the 2nd half for Alize Johnson). The Holiday brothers knocked down 6 three-pointers, as T.J. McConnell was up to his normal tricks of pushing the pace. Simply, the bench looked far crisper than the starters (who were missing their starting big men). Some teams will definitely shorten their bench come playoff time, but the Pacers could have an advantage there. Nate McMillan used his second unit to see some minutes playing zone defensively, as well.
-Light Frontcourt: Injuries to big men Domantas Sabonis (foot, plantar fasciitis), Myles Turner (calf) and Goga Bitadze (knee) had the Pacers looking quite interesting in the frontcourt on Thursday afternoon. It was Alize Johnson and JaKarr Sampson in the starting lineup, with T.J. Leaf logging minutes off the bench. Safe to say, the starting lineup was exposed a bit in having two bigs that don’t stretch the floor, nor offer much ability to create their own shot. If nothing else, this was an opportunity for the Johnson/Sampson/Leaf trio to try and do something to push for a rotation spot, once the regular season arrives next Saturday. Sampson gave Indiana the best minutes of the available bigs on Thursday. If the Pacers are healthy though, no one of that trio would be playing meaningful minutes. As far as the guys who sat out Thursday, Sabonis hasn’t practiced in the past handful of days, and could be out for the final two scrimmages on Sunday and Tuesday. Turner did some on-court work Wednesday, but was still held out of game action. Bitadze hasn’t practiced since the team arrived in Orlando two weeks ago. Obviously, Sabonis’ injury situation will have plenty of attention on it next week, especially with Joel Embiid and the 76ers waiting in the regular season re-start opener next Saturday.
Pacers Remaining Scrimmages
-Mavericks, 7/26 (Sunday), 4:00 PM
-Spurs, 7/28 (Tuesday), 4:00 PM
Pacers Regular Season Re-Start Schedule
-76ers, 8/1 (Saturday), 7:00 PM
-Wizards, 8/3 (Monday), 4:00 PM
-Magic, 8/4 (Tuesday), 6:00 PM
-Suns, 8/6 (Thursday), 4:00 PM
-Lakers, 8/8 (Saturday), 6:00 PM
-Heat, 8/10 (Monday), 8:00 PM
-Rockets, 8/12 (Wednesday), 4:00 PM
-Heat, 8/14 (Friday), TBD
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