Offensive pace set, but Pacers still in ‘beginning stages’

The Pacers squared off in a regular preseason meeting at The Fieldhouse.

The Pacers squared off in a regular preseason meeting at The Fieldhouse.

There were a lot of firsts at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Thursday night when the Chicago Bulls were in town. It was the Pacers’ only exhibition at home before their Oct. 26 season opener against the Dallas Mavericks.

After reaching 113 points in their first preseason game, the Pacers followed that up with 115 in a 115-108 win in front of 12,925 fans.

We heard Indy’s own Jeff Teague, No. 44, introduced for the first time.

“A 6-2 guard from right here in Indianapolis, IN …

“No. 44 … Jeff Teagueeeeeeee.”

Just a kid from Indianapolis — that’s how he defined himself during his introductory press conference in July.

Teague scored 10 points, had six assists and a team-high five turnovers, and was 4-of-12 from the floor. If there was any gap in the defense, he was going to squeeze through it and get to the basket. Any time when he could push it in transition, he did.

The Pacers scored 21 fast break points.

This wasn’t the Pacers-Bulls matchup that we had gotten used to, a defensive battle between two division foes. No, this was a track meet. Or at least the Pacers tried to play that way as often as they could. It’s all part of the new emphasis on offense.

The Pacers sprinted out or threw the ball ahead at any opportunity. Who needs a 24-second shot clock when you can score in 10 seconds or less? During a sequence of eight consecutive first-quarter possessions, the Pacers used 10 seconds or less to get off a shot and they scored on six of those possessions.

Playing at a faster pace will result in more possessions, more scoring, and more fun for observers.

Coach McMillan stood back and did not call many plays.

Coach McMillan stood back and did not call many plays.

Instead of bogging down the offense calling out plays, Nate McMillan — in his first year as Pacers head coach — is giving them the freedom to create and the order to “Go, go go!”

Despite 33 first-quarter points, the game was tied because they had given up 33 points, too.

“We got to the pace we wanted to play in the first half but defensively, our defense was really non-existent in the first half,” coach said afterwards. “Way too many points in the paint.”

The Bulls outscored the Pacers by two in the paint, 46-44. Against New Orleans, they were +30 (58-28) in that department.

“Our problem is not going to be offense, it’s going to be more on the defensive end,” said veteran Al Jefferson. “We know once we lock down and get together, we’ll play some great defense. And that’s just going to make everything else so much easier.”

To play at the level McMillan is demanding, the guys have to be in shape. Even better shape than they would ordinarily be in for the regular season. Distribution of minutes and having depth will be important during the grind of an 82-game season, but we’ve seen in two weeks of training camp practices that McMillan is pushing his 19-man roster. No letting up.

They won Tuesday in New Orleans, had a “hard” practice on Wednesday, shootaround Thursday morning followed by a game that night. It’s part of the process to build up their stamina.

“We’re in the process of building this team to be able to play both ends of the floor. That first half — we scored 65, they scored 67 — we got to tighten up and do better.”

The other issue that jumped out: Turnovers. Far too many — 20 — and the majority of them were unforced. A jump pass, trying to fit it in tight spaces, unsureness after too many dribbles.

“Way too many turnovers,” McMillan continued. “Gave up 22 points off turnovers. We can’t do that. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot like that. … 20 turnovers for a veteran group like this is just not good.”

So far, you have to appreciate coach McMillan’s candidness.

“It’s still at the beginning stages of what we’re trying to do,” added Thad Young.

Young, acquired in a draft-day trade with Brooklyn, had shined through two games. Against the Bulls he was the most effective player on the floor. He hit eight of 12 shots for 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out four assists in a team-high 27 minutes.

“He’s a legit spread four in the league today,” McMillan said. “His versatility to handle the ball, he can score, he can pass the ball, he defends well. … He just gives us a lot of versatility to be able to play a lot of different ways.”

On a terrible team in Brooklyn last season, he averaged 15.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Now entering his 10th season, his versatility very well may be his best attribute.

In all, six Pacers reach double figures led by Rodney Stuckey’s 20 points and seven assists off the bench. We’ve heard and I’ve written plenty about being in attack-mode before with this organization. Stuckey lives in attack-mode and wants nothing more than to get it and go. Never mind collecting $200 each time around, he’s not stopping. Nine of his 20 points were a result of penetrating and then earning a trip to the foul line.

Glenn Robinson III, who must earn his way into the rotation, tallied 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Paul George had seven points and six rebounds in exactly 24 minutes.

Thursday night was also the Pacers’ second-round picks’ first game in front of the fan base. The speed and physicality of the NBA hits rookies like a brick wall. Like any other rookie, it’ll take Niang, who contributed three points and two rebounds, time to adjust.

McMillan isn’t letting up on his guys after two games in three day. They will practice on Friday before taking off to Chicago for exhibition game No. 3 on Saturday, at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Notes:

  • C.J. Miles had soreness in his left knee and was held out. He did not practice on Wednesday and the knee didn’t feel right in pre-game warmups. If it was a regular season game, coach McMillan said he would have played.
  • Aaron Brooks (left hip flexor strain), Rakeem Christmas (sore right knee), Jeremy Evans (right shoulder rehabilitation), and Myles Turner (concussion and conditioning) also did not play, nor did D-league guys Alex Poythress and Nick Ziesloft.
  • I’m surprised neither coach let their local favorite get in for at least a minute. For the Pacers, that’s IU product Zeisloft. This is their only home game. And for the Bulls, it’s former North Central High School standout D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who hasn’t played in two preseason games.
  • Games are played with three officials. Well, No. 8 Marc Davis did not return for the second half, so No. 45 Brian Forte and No. 52 Scott Twardoski were tested in the preseason. PR did not have an update after the game.
  • No, the video played before the Pacers were introduced was not the video. Just something to get them by until Oct. 26 — opening night.
  • Those trying out for the Pacers’ official fan sections were separated into what looked like five different groups spaced throughout the four corners.
  • With Lavoy Allen choosing to wear a headband, he looked like Myles Turner from the club level.
  • Colts’ two-time Pro Bowl safety Mike Adams sat courtside … but several fans thought he was 87.

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