Preseason Pacers vs. Griz - in the Mind's Eye

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I am a visual thinker.  Whenever any verbal or audio information comes to me, I immediately convert it to images in my head.  Some of it is pretty accurate, but a lot of it is just stock “B” roll footage, but there’s always some kind of picture.  Given that, along with the fact that I’ve been listening to basketball on the radio since the mid-70’s, you’d think I’d have a rich canvas from which to provide you vivid images about last night’s loss in Memphis.

Sadly, no.

You see, no matter how artfully Mark Boyle and Slick Leonard describe any Pacer game, I have mental block when it comes to listening to basketball on the radio.  I don’t picture the action as being relayed by Mark.  Instead, I picture a ’70’s-era arena – a court surrounded by darkness, faceless players – and the entire game, I’m mentally watching Mark & Slick talk about the game.  I have fleeting images of the action or the players, but mostly, it’s about Mark & Slick.

From that, the biggest mental images I have from last night is of Slick shaking his head and largely looking disappointed with Danny Granger – at both ends.  I can see him prodding Danny to get out on Rudy Gay after Gay nailed his jumpers.  I can see him nodding in agreement with Jim O’Brien’s anger over Danny taking (and missing) a poor shot, then neglecting to get back on D, resulting in an And-1 for Rudy Gay at the other end.

It’s most certainly a molehill, but Danny really did struggle last night.  He’s going to have to adjust to an offense where he’s not going to be options 1, 2, and 3.  Roy Hibbert and his post play will hopefully become the focal point of the half court, while Darren Collison and even Josh McRoberts will handle the ball more than guys like Watson and Murphy did.  This adjustment means that he can – and must – put more emphasis on playing defense and hitting the glass.  On the plus side, only 3 of his 9 shots were three-pointers.  On the downside, he missed all six of his two-point attempts, and the only trip to the line he earned was when he was fouled on a trey.

It’s far from damning news that he still needs to adjust to the new situation.  It is, after all, only the first preseason game.  However, these are adjustments that he has to make successfully, and early, if this team is going to have any shot at the the playoffs.

Some other notes:

  • In some ways, last night’s game was like the beginning of TV shows, when the voice over says, “Previously on the West Wing,” then proceeds to show clips from earliers shows.  Like last year, the Pacers shot horribly,  committed a lot of fouls, and got pounded on the boards.   Most will point to the 31% shooting on 29 threes – which is most certainly too many takes and not enough makes.  However, I’m more concerned about the 42% shooting on two point shots, which would have been even more abysmal had Roy Hibbert and Josh McRoberts not combined to go 11-for-15 on 2pt FG’s.   This is where not having a telecast hurts us most, because I can’t tell anything about the quality of the shots or the strength of the defense.  With Hibbert in the post and Collison in the PnR as real options, we should be able to get a pretty decent shot selection.
  • The Pacers allowed 29 FTA’s last nights, which was equal to just under 41% of the FGA’s they allowed.  The league average last season was about 30%, and the Pacers were 28th at around 35%.  One game does not make a trend, but this spike is on the wrong side.  Additionally, if we’re hoping for a more mobile Hibbert to protect the rim, consider these numbers – last season, Hibbert blocked 131 shots, but committed 200 shooting fouls.  Most of the rest of the top 10 in shotblocking actually had more blocked shots than shooting fouls.  If Roy’s shot blocking is to have a presence, he will need to do the same.  Last night, he was credited with 2 blocks and 3 shooting fouls.
  • Overall, the Pacers were outrebounded 49-35 last night.  They held their own on their offensive glass, grabbing 26.5% of the available rebounds, but that was largely due to great work at that end by Roy Hibbert (6 in 31 minutes) and rookie Magnum Rolle (3 in 8 minutes).  However, the Grizzlies pounded the Pacers at the other end, and Indy could only grab 63% of the available rebounds.   It’s often been argued that Murphy’s rebounding numbers were artificially high, and that’s true to some degree.  However, this was a glaring weaknees in a 2-point loss, so this will bear watching.
  • Paul George is another reason I would have loved to see video on the game.  His only two made baskets were dunks, so that means he was 0-for-7 from outside of one inch.  Still, he did have three steals in his 26 minutes of play.  Based on the extremely limited sample of the summer league, the six days of training camp, and this one game, it seems to me that Paul’s defensive game is well ahead of his offensive game.  This surprises me a great deal, but it seems to have captured O’Brien’s attention.
  • George played 26 minutes, while Dunleavy had 16, Dahntay Jones 12, and Brandon Rush only 9.  You can’t read a great deal into the rotations in the preseason, as it’s just as likely that the distribution be inverted in the next game.  Still, this isn’t something that can be making Brandon comfortable.  There has been ample talk out of the Pacers’ camp that Mike Dunleavy is fully healthy again, and Paul George is impressing coaches.  Additionally, it seems that there were a number of messages to be taken from the Pacers picking up Roy Hibbert’s option early, but not Brandon’s (though I still expect them to pick it up by Oct 31st.)  Brandon just might be sitting at the bottom of a very large hole that he’s dug for himself.  He needs to start climbing out, or he’ll be following the unfortunate career paths of his brothers.
  • It seems that O’Brien wasn’t kidding when he said that Josh McRoberts was the best player in camp.  In 25 minutes last night, he posted 14 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a block.  For good measure, he nailed two of his four three-point attempts.  This is definitely a more complete, more coherent Josh McRoberts, even when compared to the one getting steady rotation minutes last season.
  • Most of the other guys making Pacer debuts were largely non-descript.  Collison had 5 assists and 2 steals, but struggled to finish and committed 3 turnovers.  All four of Posey’s shots were threes (he hit one).  Lance Stephenson played 12 minutes, mostly at point, but almost all of the damage he did (4 points, 2 of 3 fouls) came in barely more than his first minute of floor time.  Rolle saw 8 minutes, grabbing 4 rebounds, but the team was -5 during that stretch.
  • It’s hard not to think of Memphis as, well…the Grizzlies.  I mean, after all , this is a franchise that hasn’t won a single playoff game in their history.  Still, that’s really unfair these days.  They have come a long way in just the last year, and at this point, they are probably further along than the Pacers are.  Rudy Gay probably won’t earn out that ridiculous contract, but he’s still a very talented player who may have pulled himself past Danny Granger with his great experience/performance at the World Championships this summer.  Zach Randolph has apparently matured, and Marc Gasol is a very good young center.  Whether they’re a playoff team in the West or not is an open question, but I think they’ve elevated themselves comfortably above doormat status.  Good on them.

Next game is Friday night.  If you want to see other reactions, you can check out the AP Report, or our friends at IndyCornows.  And, of course, check out our True Hoop Colleagues over at 3 Shades of Blue for the view from the dark side.  Surprisingly (not), they thought it was kind of a sloppy performance, but writer Matthew Noe did have some nice words for Roy Hibbert.

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Tags: 2010 Preseason Danny Granger Josh McRoberts Paul George Roy Hibbert

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