Preseason Game 1: Observations from the Pacers’ 103-90 victory over Minnesota

The basketball season is already here and the Pacers began preseason play Tuesday night at home. The Pacers led for the majority of the game and cruised to a 103-90 victory over No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“A solid performance by almost everybody,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.

Below are my thoughts from the win:

  • An increased focus to push the ball and work it around on offense was the first thing I noticed. The ball rarely sat still and went through numerous guys on offense before someone fired up a shot. Spacing is key. They’ve talked a lot about trying to do it so it was nice to see them back those words up.
  • George Hill, as Vogel put it, was in “IUPUI mode.” He facilitated, attacked the rim, beat guys off the bounce, and ended up with a team-high 17 points.
  • Damjan Rudež nailed his first shot, a long 2-pointer from the left corner. He looked pretty relaxed for playing in his first NBA environment, despite less than 10,000 fans being in the stands. He was 4-for-8, and showed off his runner in the lane a couple times. (He did have ice on his right ankle after the game.)
  • I like Rodney Stuckey’s speed. As others have noted, he does resemble Lance Stephenson, always looking to penetrate and create inside the paint. A bit out of control at times, but they need more of that in the offense.
  • Roy Hibbert, who is also a player that’ll have a greater offensive role this season, went to work quickly on the block. He scored a swift eight points and assisted on two buckets. It took him a few minutes, but he ended up pulling down five rebounds.
  • Rookie Shayne Whittington played with ease. He made all five shots and was one of three Pacers in double figures with 11 points. He said he’s at least a month and half ahead of schedule after breaking his left leg in a pre-draft workout in May. Quite the story. (More on him on Wednesday.)
  • Liked what I saw from Lavoy Allen. The team’s third-string center simply played, “solid,” as Vogel put it. Though he did air ball one jumper – hey, it’s preseason! – he showed a nice touch around the rim and he sank a few mid-range jumpers.
  • George sat next to Pacers President Larry Bird during the game.

    Adonis Thomas, who I believe at this moment has the best chance to make the final roster, nifty a nice steal and two-handed stuff to end the third quarter.

  • Considering the circumstances, a win here is somewhat meaningful. Vogel had “Winning is a habit” on their locker room dry-erase board pregame, and Tuesday’s win was a great start.
  • Timberwolves rookie Andrew Wiggins impressed in his first NBA game. Despite struggling from the field (4-for-11), he scored 18 points, eight of which came at the free throw line.
  • I think Paul George, who sat in the executive corner next to Larry Bird and behind Kevin Pritchard and Donnie Walsh, will learn a lot both from observing and talking with Bird throughout games — should the arrangement continue.
  • One down, six to go.
  • After stuffing 10 practices and a game in the first seven days, the team was given Wednesday off — though I’m sure most will be in for treatment and individual work.

C.J. Watson (sore right foot), Ian Mahinmi (sore left shoulder), and Chris Copeland (sore right knee) all sat out but none of the injuries are concerning. Likely just a result of getting after it day-after-day for the past week.

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