Opening Night: What To Expect From The Pacers

INDFinally, it’s here. After months of Draft talk, Summer League, Training Camp, and the Preseason, the NBA regular season kicks off tomorrow night. All of the predictions have been made, the off-season moves have been dissected, and the table has been set for another exciting season of basketball.

Opening night in the NBA is Tuesday, where all eyes will be on six teams. There are three games tonight, and the Pacers are set to open things up first, against the Orlando Magic. It’s the first game of the regular season, and it comes at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the expectations are even higher than last season. Experts and fans alike have all tabbed the Pacers as a team capable of making it all the way to the NBA Finals. That long journey begins tomorrow, when Indiana welcomes former Hoosier standout Victor Oladipo back home, which will be his NBA regular season debut.

For the Pacers, it should be one in the win column, given the circumstances. Orlando is a young team without a present day star player. The Pacers are going to have enormous support from the home crowd, who will be providing an electric atmosphere. Still, there are some things that the Pacers will need to do well in order to win. The Magic aren’t going to just roll over and accept defeat. Indiana showed during the preseason that they are far from a well-oiled machine. With new pieces in place, and different rotations being used, the players still haven’t fully meshed together the way Frank Vogel would like.

The big question has been the starting lineup. Will Vogel put Granger back at the SF position, or does he want him coming off the bench with the second unit? It was a legitimate question early on, but after his left calf strain that was worse than originally thought, Danny has been ruled out of the first 3 weeks of the season. With that, the starting 5 will be the same as last year. Even when he heals from that, Frank will have to be careful with his minutes. Speaking of minutes, expect David West to get a few more breathers than he did last season. With the addition of Luis Scola the Pacers can reduce David’s minutes, and save his body for when it’s needed most – in the playoffs.

Most of the other positions are set, with George Hill, Paul George, and Roy Hibbert starting. The reserves will play a larger role this year, with guys like CJ Watson, Ian Mahinmi, and Chris Copeland expected to make solid contributions. It will be interesting to see how many minutes rookie Solomon Hill receives, if any at all. He has impressed coaches and teammates with his play and basketball IQ. Vogel will want to get him some time on the floor for some experience, even if the outcome of the game has already been decided.

There will be some interesting match ups on Tuesday night. Obviously Orlando has some talented guards in Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, and Oladipo. That’s not a knock on their front court either, as they have solid big men in Glen Davis, Tobias Harris, Jason Maxiell, and Nikola Vucevic. Their guards like to drive more than they like to spot-up shoot, so it will be important for Hill and Stephenson to stay in front, but also for West and Hibbert to be ready in the paint – and to stay out of foul trouble. Hibbert will need to keep Vucevic off of the boards, and Paul George will need to use his size and length against the smaller Magic guards.

Orlando isn’t a playoff team, but that doesn’t mean this won’t be a tough game. The first game is usually one of the worst, filled with turnovers, errant shots, and poor defense. Most are just happy to escape without suffering any significant injuries. With the Eastern Conference stacked at the top, it’s going to be crucial for the Pacers to earn a high seed to secure home court advantage in the playoffs. The Pacers were 49-32 last year. That’s important, because over the past 20 years, only 1 team has won the championship in a year where they won less than 50 regular season games.

These are the games that most people already have checked off as wins for the Pacers. These are the dangerous games. Vogel knows that, and you can expect that he will have his team mentally prepared for this game. He shouldn’t have to get them fired up for this one – it’s Opening Night.

One Response to Opening Night: What To Expect From The Pacers
  1. tangkasnet
    February 21, 2015 | 11:39 pm

    tangkasnet…

    Opening Night: What To Expect From The Pacers | Vigilant Sports…

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