Drawing conclusions from a preseason game is dubious, but after the Indiana Pacers preseason win over the Houston Rockets (110-100), we can all agree on one thing: it’s good to have Pacers basketball back.
Though much of the preseason is meaningless there are still a few takeaways that could be meaningful once the games actually matter.
Edmond Sumner looks like an NBA player
Easily the highlight of the game for Indiana was the play of their second-year, two-way contract guard Edmond Sumner.
Sumner filled in for Tyreke Evans, who missed the game with a sprained ankle and played 19 minutes that showed off his athleticism and potential.
Sumner played Evans’s role well and made some impressive drives to the rim throughout the game. His biggest highlight a dunk along the baseline in the first half as he got his first poster of his NBA career.
Sumner finished with 13 points in his 18 minutes on an efficient 6 of 8 from the field. He looks like a candidate to shed the 2-way contract and get that 15th roster spot.
It will be interesting to see how much he plays once Evans is back as McMillan didn’t play many of the guys at the end of the bench in the first preseason game, but Sumner seems to be ahead of rookie Aaron Holiday in the rotation already and his size gives him versatility in how he can be used.
Domas Sabonis and Myles Turner played zero minutes together
After all the discussion about how these two will mesh while sharing the court, they didn’t play together at all in the first game.
The Rockets play a small lineup and McMillan went with lineups with Bojan Bogdanovic or Doug McDermott at the power forward spot instead of playing the two young centers together in this one.
The Pacers will still play Sabonis and Turner together, but it appears it will be matchup based for when they decide to do so rather than a guaranteed nightly occurrence.
Myles Turner looked aggressive
One of the things that players talked about with Turner in the players’ mini-camp in Miami was Turner’s improved aggressiveness and it showed in the first game.
Turner made a couple moves off the dribble that would have been rare last year and dunked all over a Rockets defender early.
Turner had five rebounds in his first seven minutes but didn’t record another rebound in his next 16 minutes. He finished with 11 points in 21 minutes, making some nice plays in the post and inside.
Victor Oladipo is still Victor Oladipo
No reason to ever think he wouldn’t be as good as last year, but Oladipo left no doubt that he won’t be a one-year wonder. He was hunting last night and scored a smooth 24 points in his 24 minutes. I’ll let the highlights do the talking.
TJ Leaf made some defensive plays
Leaf scored 13 points and had 12 rebounds in his 33 minutes in place of Thaddeus Young. He showed off his innate ability to be in the right place at the right time on the offensive glass by scoring on four different putbacks. He made some nice passes out of the post including the pass on Turner’s dunk and this Bogdanovic 3-pointer:
He also didn’t look completely lost on defense which is saying something after last season. He made a nice block on Chris Paul to end the first half that set up Oladipo’s buzzer beater.
Domas Sabonis used his right-hand multiple times in the post
Sabonis went 1 of 2 on right-hand attempts down low but the most important part is that he was willing to use it. If he develops that part of his game enough to use it consistently, it will do wonders for him in the post.
Last season, he had a tendency to turn the ball over in the post partially because teams would just sit on his left-hand and he’d go right into the waiting defense. If he can force the defense to worry about him going both ways, watch out.
He also made a huge smothered chicken play at the rim which would be another nice addition to his game if he can keep protecting the basket. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds (while for some reason playing all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter of a preseason game while Kyle O’Quinn and Ike Anigbogu didn’t play).
Most importantly: No new injuries
The most important part of the preseason schedule is that the team stays healthy and adds no new injuries during these games. Mission accomplished in game one.
Evans injured his ankle in practice but it sounds minor. He’s questionable for the game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Thad Young remains out for the next one with a bone bruise.