Running thoughts: Rockets 118, Pacers 95

Here are my running thoughts from the Pacers’ 118-95 loss to the Houston Rockets Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

  • Curtains above the balcony levels are pulled back. That’s always a cool look.
  • Eric Gordon is looking trim. He’s become a reliable contributor now that he’s healthy. And with Chris Paul missing time, he has thrived in the starting lineup.
  • Paul hasn’t played since the season opener (Oct. 17) due to a left knee injury. Nearing a return, he shot for at least 20 minutes right before the game tipped off.
  • Gordon was active early, attempting three of their first four shots. … The Pacers could be in for a long night. The Rockets, who played last night (and beat Memphis), sprinted out to an 13-2 lead over the first 3:20.
  • It’s now 21-6. This may prove to be too difficult to overcome – especially against an explosive offensive team like Houston.
  • Rockets are fun to watch. Fast pace, lots of pick-and-rolls and 3-point shots. James Harden dished out nine assists — his season average is 9.8 per game — and they shot 58 percent from the floor to take a 35-18 lead at the end of the first.
  • Domantas Sabonis tried from distance and hit – for the second time this season. Just five attempts.
  • Lance Stephenson is in a good groove. He hit Sabonis with a slick behind-the-back pass that he often practices pregame. A few possessions later, he snatched the rebound and found T.J. Leaf in the corner for 3, helping them to a 16-4 run to open the second period. That’s Great Lance. It forced Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni to call a timeout.
  • Did you know that Myles Turner is now wearing a mouth guard? Started using one after his concussion.
  • Turner’s dad, who is at nearly every home game, has changed seats this season. Instead of sitting in the last row of action 15 as we have come to expect, his ticket is now in section 6.
  • Houston averaging 44.7 3-point attempts per game. They had 22 at half, making 10. Even without CP3, it’s clear they are the better team. Indiana, though, got good contributions from The Trade – Vic and Domantas (26 points) in the first half, but trailed by a dozen.
  • The Pacers honored veterans during halftime, and also unveiled their new POW/MIA seat in the south east corner to symbolize that there will always be a place in at Bankers Life Fieldhouse awaiting their return.
  • A frustrated Thad Young checked out in the third quarter and accidentally ripped his jersey down the middle (see video below). He then swapped it out before returning in the final quarter.
  • Pacers furious that their final field goal attempt in the third by Bojan Bogdanovic wasn’t counted due to goaltending. And thus they trailed by 16 entering the fourth, led by Oladipo’s 22 points.
  • It’s been a sloppy second half for Indiana. It’s clear they were visibly upset with their play. Oladipo and Sabonis still were good in pick-and-roll sets.
  • Pacers fans filing out of The Fieldhouse with 6:40 left with their team trailing by 22.
  • Darren Collison became the first Pacers play T’d up this season. A double technical was handed out to him and James Harden.
  • McMillan: “James is just a special player with his ability to not only score and to assist the ball. If you switch, he takes advantage of the switch and the matchup. We did pretty much everything we could do except stop them.”
  • Corey Joseph, Joe Young, Damien Wilkins, T.J. Leaf, and Ike Anigobgu checked in to close the game, trailing 110-87 with 3:32 left.
  • It’s the Rockets’ sixth consecutive win. The Pacers were off tonight, but it was an impressive how the Rockets won after having played last night and traveling from Houston.
  • Harden finished with 26 points and a season-high 15 assists, Gordon had 21 on 6 of 1 shooting. Oladipo led all scorers with 28 points.
  • Oladipo: “It’s tough with a team like that. Once they get off to a fast start, there’s no looking back with a team like that. It’s tough. You’ve got to have a great start in order to beat a team like that in a 48-minute game.”
  • Up next: A light week. The Pacers, who dropped to 6-8, play in Memphis on Wednesday and then host Detroit Friday night, the first Hickory game of the season.
  • Interesting to observe Thad Young have a teaching moment with rookie Ike Anigbogu postgame. He shared with him how he’ll get to a point where he knows every player’s responsibility with each offensive set. This was after Lance Stephenson got on him about not wearing a belt.

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