Running thoughts: Trail Blazers 114, Pacers 96

Let’s try something new.

Here are my running thoughts from the Pacers’ 114-96 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

  • Pacers wore their blue (Icon) uniforms for the second consecutive game, and so the Trail Blazers were in white.
  • So good to see Brooke Olzendam, the Pacers’ former sideline reporter. I also had the chance to connect with Indy native Kevin Calabro, the TV voice of the Blazers (and brother of WTHR Sports Director Dave Calabro).
  • Story: Pacers’ ties to the Blazers run deep
  • Pacers owner Herb Simon was at the game, sitting at his perch adjacent to the team bench.
  • With Myles Turner out with a concussion, Domatas Sabonis made his first start of the season. He started 66 games during his rookie season in Oklahoma City. Turner was not on the bench.
  • Sabonis later was clawed by a Blazer player. He didn’t remember who. He was evaluated at the end of the bench by team ophthalmologist Dr. John Abrams, and soon returned. His right eye and contact were scratched, but nothing that kept him off the floor.
  • Alex Poythress, one of two players on a two-day deal, was active and dressed for the game.
  • Blazers guard C.J. McCollum made his season debut. He was suspended for Game 1 after stepping onto the court during a conflict in the preseason.
  • Al Jefferson, who is out of the rotation, checked in for the first time late in the first quarter. He had eight points in 16 minutes.
  • Really impressive sequence early in the second quarter from rookie T.J. Leaf. He nailed a mid-range jumper, then absorbed contact from Caleb Swanigan, who was called for an offensive foul. Next time down the floor, Leaf sank a straight-on 3.
  • Leaf recorded his first career points on a drive and hoop on Swanigan to start the second quarter.
  • 62-52 at the half. Evan Turner, the ex-Pacer, led all scorers with 13 points off the bench. He got the best of Oladipo three straight times down the floor.
  • Oladipo threw down a ridiculous alley-oop just before intermission.
  • Former Ohio State and Butler basketball head coach Thad Matta was on hand. Turner played at Ohio State.
  • Pacers ball boys have been subjected to wearing hats, yet. Happy for them.
  • I’d like to see the Pacers turn down the lights like they did in the preseason. Through two games, there hasn’t been a big difference in the amount of game-night lighting.
  • Blazers forward Ed Davis: Forever known to me as the guy Larry Bird decided against, and instead drafted Paul George 10th overall in 2010.
  • So about all that hype with center Jusuf Nurkic. He managed to score 11 points, but didn’t jump out at me.
  • Leaf has a good stroke from distance. He’s made both attempts at the top of the arc. It took him just two career games to reach double figures. He had 10 points (4-for-4) through three quarters. He doesn’t believe he has any sweet spots on the court, though his top-of-the-arc 3-ball has been good.
  • 91-73 entering the fourth. Pacers need to take a stab at this deficit early in the quarter, or the Blazers could pull away in a hurry.
  • Sabonis sets hard screens. That’s why teammates like to be in pick-and-roll sets with him. Many things come naturally to him, others were instilled in him at a very young age.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu was been strong while center Just Nurkic has a quiet night. Double-double for Aminu (16 and 16). He was a plus-27 in 35 minutes.
  • Nate McMillan waved the white flag late and inserted Joe Young, Alex Poythress, and Ike Anigbogu.
  • Thus far, it sounds like the locker room is in a very good place. Victor Oladipo, Thad Young, and Turner are all speaking up and holding guys accountable.
  • Turner, who missed just one game last season, is expected to join the team on its trip to Miami.
  • With 96 points, the Pacers scored 44 fewer points than they did in game 1. I don’t think either will be the norm. They averaged 105.1 points per game last year and their goal is 110. 107-ish seems realistic. (The Warriors averaged 115.9 points per game.)
  • The Pacers left too many points at the line, going 22-of-33. That’s 11 points.
  • They have not shot it well from range, either. Just 22 percent (4-for-18) against Portland. You have to shoot well anymore, knocking down double-digits threes each game.
  • 15 assists won’t cut it. There was more iso-ball tonight. Lance Stephenson is off to a slow start offensively, shooting just 1 of 5 Friday night.
  • Caleb Swanigan is clearly just a rookie. He was limited to nine minutes, as Aminu was outstanding, and he missed all four of his shots back in his home state.
  • The Pacers dropped to 1-1.
  • Up next: at Miami on Saturday, 8:00 pm. And I’m sure the coaching staff likes that they’re playing a back-to-back in Miami. Although I’m sure they would have preferred it to be during the week.

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