In case you missed the Indiana Pacers two-game preseason tilt in the Far East — and with the game broadcast in Indy during the wee hours of a weekend morning, it’s understandable if you did — let’s take a look back at the highlights and lowlights of the overseas exhibition.
Author’s Note: You can get an alternate look of the trip by checking out www.ChinaPacers.com. It’s been translated from Chinese into English, and there’s some truly revealing insight in the article for Indianapolis basketball fans. Among the more interesting comments include:
“The training is very limited…Tyler Hansbrough (who is mainly responsible for food and signature), can do pulling exercises. Mike Dunleavy could only sit on the sidelines holding the ball.
“Troy Murphy also consider themselves country bumpkin out of city: “I am looking forward to this expedition, cool.”
“Brandon Rush bruised left knee in practice yesterday (diagnosed as knee contusion), he claims does not affect any game battle. We hope that our doctor will stop the wrong diagnosis.”
Trust me, it’s a riveting read.
To the highlights we go…
-The trip away from Conseco Fieldhouse couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, as the new-look Pacers (they brought in six fresh faces in the offseason), dominated the Denver Nuggets 126-104 in the first game. The Pacers were paced by the trio of Brandon Rush, Troy Murphy, and Roy Hibbert, each of whom tossed in 20 points.
More impressive was what they accomplished on the defensive end. Holding the Nuggets to 37-percent shooting, the Pacers harassed the Western Conference Finalists into 21 turnovers, while outrebounding them 52-40. It was as complete a game as can be expected this early in October, and Head Coach Jim O’Brien said as much after the game; “We’re probably about 35-percent ready for the season,” he said before adding, “We executed tonight what we practiced.”
-Roy Hibbert is becoming a man before our very eyes. Not in that 6th grade “Your Changing Body” kind of way, but in terms of his evolution into a starting NBA center.
Over the course of the last year we’ve seen him grow from a clumsy, awkward foul-machine into a potentially domineering post presence the likes of which the Hoosier state hasn’t seen in a very long time (maybe never).
He treated the Denver big men as if they were “D-League” outcasts on his way to 40 points, 20 rebounds, and 12 blocks over the two games. Impressively, he did all that while committing just six fouls in 60 minutes of action. If Hibbert continues to keep his hands off the opposition at that kind of rate, he’ll average a double-double this season. Count on it.
-Brandon Rush was a veritable stat stuffer, registering positive numbers in all stat categories, and finishing second on the team with a 17 point-per-game average. After an incredibly slow start to his rookie year highlighted by mental mistakes, poor shooting, and defensive inadequacies, Rush was a broken man by January.
His confidence was shattered and his minutes dipped into the single-digits as a result, but a late season revival — Rush averaged 16.3 points on 52.8-percent shooting over the final month — had the second-year shooting guard competing for a starting spot heading into camp. After his encouraging showing in China, it’s safe to assume he’s all but wrapped up that competition.
-Less pertinent to the success of the team, but intriguing nonetheless, were the performances of A.J. Price and Josh McRoberts. Price, a rookie battling to be the Pacers third point guard, produced a 16 point, 4 rebound, 4 assist stat line in the first game, while his main competition, fan favorite Travis Diener, sat on the sidelines with a bad foot. Look for this to emerge as the most heated competition in camp.
-McRoberts showed moments of hyper-active goodness last season, but it came sparingly, and was often accompanied by manic wildness that left him out of place on the court, and out of favor with Coach O’Brien and G.M. Larry Bird. He’s still a work in progress, evidenced by his seven fouls and four turnovers in 42 minutes of playing time, but he also displayed growing maturity to go along with his penchant for highly-productive spurts of action (18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals and a block in two games). At the very least, the Carmel native appears to be hustling his way into the 10-man rotation.
Indianapolis sports fans, and Pacers enthusiasts in particular, can check back at funcityfinder.com tomorrow to flip the coin and take a look at the lowlights from the teams trip to China. And if you want to catch the Pacers live in action on a frequent basis this season, check out more information about relocation to Indianapolis.