Post-Game Grades: Indiana Pacers growing pains on display in loss to Houston Rockets


The Houston Rockets are one of the best teams in the NBA. The Indiana Pacers are not. This is what growing pains look like.

100. Final. 118. 169. 95

The Houston Rockets are one of the best teams in the NBA, so tonight’s loss from the Indiana Pacers isn’t anything more than what we expected. The Pacers lost 118-95.

Indiana kept within range until the fourth quarter but Houston’s win was never in doubt. Daryl Morey’s alchemy built a team for Mike D’Antoni to perform his wizardry and James Harden performed his magic against the Pacers.

There were bright spots for the Pacers — Domantas Sabonis is still amazing, Victor Oladipo bounced back with a good night, and TJ Leaf’s offense looks NBA ready — but there were plenty of issues exposed tonight as well.

That’s what young, not so good teams, go through. But unlike the pain and suffering of losses last season, the lower stakes make this less of a depressing affair.

Last season a loss meant the Pacers weren’t a good team. A loss meant another let down in the playoffs. A loss meant Paul George was leaving.

More from 8 Points, 9 Seconds

This season a loss is part of on-going growing pains. A loss means little when you build a team around guys under the age of 25. The losses are expected because none of the core players going forward are in their prime years.

Myles Turner is 21, Domas is 21, Oladipo is only 25.It isn’t like Cory Joseph is that old either at 26.  Veterans like Thaddeus Young are pushing 30, but nine of the players are the still paying too much for their car insurance. We’re still waiting to see prospects like Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner, and really, Leaf, play significant minutes because they aren’t ready for it. They hopefully are down the road, but they aren’t ready for extended runs yet.

A loss tonight to the Rockets is mostly meaningless other than watching for bright spots from the younger players.

This is growing up.

The Good: Victor Oladipo’s 28 points on 64.7% shooting were a refreshing sign after three games in the 30s. Yes, he had a good game against the Chicago Bulls, but the Bulls are bad. Oladipo isn’t going to shoot above 50% all the time but with each game that he that he pushes closer to that mark, the more comfortable fans can feel about the trade.

The Bad: Young, Joseph, and Bojan Bogdanovic went a combined 3 of 21 on the night. On any night that’s a high hurdle to clear, but against the Rockets, winning is near impossible. No need to panic as all three are having solid seasons, but they didn’t bring it on Sunday.

Thad went 0 for 7 and finished with zero points, prompting him to go Hulk Hogan on his jersey in the second half.

MVP: Oladipo’s 25 points came efficiently despite the Rockets forcing him to take a number of jump shots. Victor kept his head down and still made it to the paint and drew fouls, a key to a successful night for him.

LVP: Those Nike jerseys rip too easily.

X-Factor: Lance made them dance. After a rough stretch not too long ago, Lance Stephenson is stringing together above average performances. His play off the bench tonight produced 8 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. Indiana doesn’t need to give him the ball all the time to get the Good Lance, but they are letting him dribble the ball enough to create a rhythm for himself and it is benefitting the rest of the team.

B. 13 points (on 6 of 11 shooting) and 8 rebounds are OK, but the biggest concern from tonight as to how Turner ended up covering James Harden too many times. That’s not all on Myles by any means, but that doesn’t take away his responsibilities either. He still doesn’t look settled in on offense yet, either.. C. Indiana Pacers. MYLES TURNER

A. We saw some ISOdipo™, Mid-Rangedipo, Transitiodipo, the full package.. SG. Indiana Pacers. VICTOR OLADIPO

D. Everything went wrong for Thaddeus Young tonight.. PF. Indiana Pacers. THADDEUS YOUNG

A. Did Lance make them dance? ✔. SG. Indiana Pacers. LANCE STEPHENSON

Indiana Pacers. BOJAN BOGDANOVIC. C-. Bojan 2of10fromthefloorand1of4fromdeepovic. SF

C-. Collison had 9 points but only 2 assists. He couldn’t get going against the Rockets defense and the rest of the offense suffered for it.. PG. Indiana Pacers. DARREN COLLISON

PF/C. Indiana Pacers. DOMANTAS SABONIS. B. 17 points and 5 rebounds from the Saboner. He shot 70% in the game and was the closest Indiana had to a good defender on Sunday.

D. Similar story to Darren Collison numbers-wise, but at least the bench cut into the Rockets’ lead.. PG. Indiana Pacers. CORY JOSEPH

PF. Indiana Pacers. TJ LEAF. B. Leaf was 3 of 5 from the floor and 2 of 3 from deep. Temper it with the usual “but his defense” and you have a decent night from the rookie with 9 points, a rebound, and a block.