The new-look Pacers were on display Friday night in Conseco Fieldhouse, but there were some things that looked alarmingly familiar. A slim halftime lead was washed away when the Bulls outscored the Pacers 34-19 in yet another dismal third quarter performance. Indiana did rally early in the fourth, but couldn’t get any closer than two. Danny Granger’s departure for the night at the six-minute mark and the Pacers down eight was effectively the white flag of surrender.
The game was officiated by replacement refs, but they were largely unnoticeable. They did draw a pretty negative reaction from the crowd, however, when they decided to review a play with 4.3 seconds remaining, and the Bulls up by nine.
The loss notwithstanding, it was still good to have Indiana Pacer basketball back again. Here are some highlights (and lowlights) of the evening:
- Solo Performance – Solomon Jones got the start tonight and rewarded O’Brien’s faith with 11 points and 3 blocks in 26 minutes. He showed some nice leaping ability protecting the rim, and his overall quickness allowed him to provide some token pressure in the backcourt defensively. However, he did not show any kind of physical presence, either in the post or on the glass. Jones will need to learn to put a body on people. Otherwise, he’ll be poor, both as a rebounder and a post defender.
- Ford Pinto - TJ Ford had an inauspicious beginning to the new campaign, shooting only 25% and committing a full 1/3 of the Pacers’ 21 turnovers.
- In Case We Forgot – Second-year players Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert decided to re-enact some of their rookie troubles in the first half. Rush was mostly invisible over the first 24 minutes, failing to take a shot. Hibbert just wished he was, picking up three fouls in just about five minutes. On the plus side, both were more aggressive and more effective in the second half, combining for 23 points after the break.
- TOO EASY, DRILL SERGEANT! – Danny Granger posted an easy 27 points in 26 minutes tonight, despite a so-so shooting night. Most encouraging were the 12 trips to the line (with 11 makes). The five turnovers need to be curbed, but he was still pretty much the best player in the building.
- McWow – Without question, Josh McRoberts’ fourth quarter dunk got the biggest reaction from the crowd tonight. However, he had a decent all around night, with 6 boards and a couple of steals. The absence of Troy Murphy and Tyler Hansbrough created an opening for McBob tonight, and he did pretty well in his 26 minutes.
- Don’t Call Him Lex – Luther Head showed some promise tonight, being very active while on the floor. He scored 14 points, hitting two of his three shots from three. He primarily played the “2″ but was playing the point during the 4th quarter rally.
- …and the Rest – Second-rounder AJ Price showed some defensively tenacity, but missed all seven of his shots … Dahntay Jones showed signs of being able to pressure the ball, as well as a decent mid-range shot, but only played 14 minutes. He was grimacing when he left in the third quarter … Rod Benson, Demetris Nichols and Lawrence Roberts all played, but none looked like anything more than camp fodder … Mike Dunleavy, Hansbrough, Murphy and Travis Diener all missed the game due to injuries, while Earl Watson had an excused absence for personal reasons … The Pacers head to the Far East for the next exhibition game, playing the Denver Nuggets in Taiwan.
- Taj & Derrick- The Bulls put five players in double figures tonight, led by Taj Gibson with 19. The USC product was the 26th pick in this year’s draft and showed a very nice mid-range game. He also pulled down 9 boards. Derrick Byars, who averaged over 20 points a game in the D-League last year, drained two killer threes in the fourth quarter to help put the game out of reach.
- The Third Wheel – The Bulls played three rookies tonight, one being James Johnson, the #16 pick in this year’s draft. A possible choice for the Pacers, he did nothing to make Indiana regret passing on him. Johnson scored 4 points before fouling out in 20 minutes. He seemed passive and was generally unimpressive. The Pacers guarded him for significant stretches with the much smaller Brandon Rush, and Johnson responded by standing at the three-point line and watching.
- Just Don’t Get Hurt! – The cardinal rule of preseason games, but Tyrus Thomas left the game in the third quarter with a possible concussion. He was knocked to the floor while drawing a charge from Danny Granger and did not return. The Bulls entered the game without veterans Brad Miller, Kirk Hinrich and Jannero Pargo, all down with injuries of one degree or another.
- By Any Other Name – Former #1 draft pick Derrick Rose scored 17 points, including some key buckets to stave off the Pacers’ rally late in the game.
Topics: 2009 Preseason, Brad Miller, Brandon Rush, Chicago Bulls, Danny Granger, Derrick Byars, Derrick Rose, James Johnson, Jannero Pargo, Josh McRoberts, Kirk Hinrich, Luther Head, Roy Hibbert, Solomon Jones, Taj Gibson, TJ Ford, Tyrus Thomas