INDIANAPOLIS – Nate Bjorkgren is certainly going to remember this Christmas.
The first-time head coach got his first NBA win on Wednesday night, as the Pacers (1-0) took off in the second half and beat the Knicks, 121-107 inside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Domantas Sabonis led Indiana with 32 points, 13 rebound and 5 assists.
Down 66-61 at halftime, the Pacers got a big spark from Victor Oladipo in the third quarter. Oladipo scored 11 of his 22 points (9-of-14 shooting) in the third and finished the night with a pretty complete game.
Along with Sabonis and Oladipo, Malcolm Brogdon carried the big scoring load, scoring 21 points while recording 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
Indiana shot just 8-of-34 from behind the arc, but did get to the foul line 29 attempts, a number they would love to see become routine. Much has been made about the amount of three the Pacers will attempt under Bjorkgren. However, the ability to get to the foul line more is needed, too.
Bjorkgren was pleased with how the defense responded in the second half. Myles Turner tied a career-high with 8 blocks in the season-opener.
The Pacers will not play on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Their next game will be in Chicago on Saturday night.
Three Things Learned
-Sabonis Shows His Value: Throughout last season, we stressed that there was no question on this team’s most important player. In case you didn’t watch what happened to the Pacers in the bubble, Wednesday was another reminder of the value of Domantas Sabonis. The All-Star had 32 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists, again bullying his way through the Knicks. Sabonis even showed off an ability to truly stretch the floor by knocking down two 3-pointers on four attempts. Whether it’s his consistent scoring, top-level rebounding ability or just continuing to make the offense flow across both the starters and the reserves, Sabonis is this team’s best/most important player. A new coach and new system isn’t going to change that.
-Starting Lineup The Same: With health cooperating on opening night, the Pacers had their expected starting lineup of Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, T.J. Warren, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner in place. Again, this 5-man grouping started just 6 games last season, so we are still getting used to this group actually playing together. Of course, the two big-man approach will be something to watch as the season unfolds. Nate Bjorkgren says he won’t be afraid to adjust lineups. Does that mean the Pacers going with 1 traditional big at times, thus sending a Sabonis or Turner to the bench? Wednesday brought just a 9-man rotation with Aaron Holiday, Justin Holiday, T.J. McConnell and Doug McDermott playing off the bench.
-Early-Season Tests: Of their first 9 games this season, the Pacers will play 7 inside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. A back-to-back with the Celtics on Sunday/Tuesday highlights the early part of a pretty favorable first two weeks. The Paces will actually have a weeklong western road trip (5 games) starting on January 11th. Remember we know just 36 games of the season-long schedule, with the NBA announcing the back half of this season’s slate at a later date. With an improved Eastern Conference this season, the Pacers would be well-served (especially given their personnel continuity) to take advantage of this start, even while adjusting to a much different system under Nate Bjorkgren.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-at Bulls (Saturday, 12-26 at 8:00 PM)
-Celtics (Sunday, 12-27 at 8:00 PM)
-Celtics (Tuesday, 12-29 at 7:00 PM)
-Cavs (Thursday, 12-31 at 3:00 PM)
-Knicks (Saturday, 1-2, at 7:00 PM)