Preseason Takeaways: Lessons from Pacers overtime loss to Grizzlies

The Indiana Pacers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in their second preseason game last night, but the result of the exhibition match doesn’t matter. With the Pacers resting all five starters, it was a chance for the young guys to get lots of minutes and show whether or not they belonged, and it was an opportunity for the bench unit to develop some chemistry with each other.

Here’s what we learned from Game 2:

Tyreke Evans and Domas Sabonis pick and rolls will be a delight:

These two have quickly developed a rapport on these type of plays in practice and it showed in their first game action together. Domas Sabonis repeatedly got great looks at the basket thanks to Tyreke Evans’s patience on the play, waiting until the right moment to make a quick pass to the Lithuanian big man.

Sabonis struggled to finish many of these looks but finished with an impressive 17 points (7 of 18) and 14 rebounds in only 21 minutes. Evans struggled to make shots as well but still finished with 12 points (3 for 11), 6 rebounds and 3 assists. It should be a blast watching these two run the pick and roll all season.

Evans had some chemistry miscues early with expecting players to go one way and going another or not being ready for a pass from Sabonis but it was good to get those kind of mistakes out of the way in preseason.

Sabonis struggled at times defending Jaren Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies first-round pick, who got some looks at the rim that looked too easy that Sabonis was unable to make much of a challenge to stop. The bench defense as a whole could be an issue as TJ Leaf and Doug McDermott are both poor defenders and Sabonis is still a work in progress on that end as well. But team defense during the preseason is hard to really judge and Leaf may not play much in the regular season with Nate McMillan wanting to go to a 9-man rotation.

Edmond Sumner is a human pogo stick

Edmond Sumner unfortunately left this game early with a sprained ankle that hopefully isn’t too serious as he’s been the most exciting part of the preseason for the Pacers so far. He managed to give a couple highlight-reel dunks in the first half before getting hurt including one off a pick and roll where he snaked around the Grizzlies big defending the ball and dunked on two defenders at the rim.

Sumner looks like someone who should be on the NBA roster full time and not just on a 2-way contract. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him signed to the 15th roster spot like Alex Poythress was last year after his 45 2-way contract days with the NBA team are used up.

Aaron Holiday can score but still has a long way to go

Aaron Holiday led Indiana in scoring with 20 points on only 13 shot attempts. He also had 8 turnovers as he was hounded by fellow rookie Jevon Carter. Holiday hit a ton of big shots in the fourth quarter and in overtime but made his share of mistakes on that end as well including a turnover with the game tied with six seconds left where OT could have been avoided with a bucket.

Some of the shots he made were extremely tough looks and encouraging for his potential.

The turnovers were something we saw in Summer League action as well. His decision-making skills just aren’t fully developed yet when it comes to making the right pass at the right time with accuracy. He’s got a long way to go to be a point guard that takes care of the ball.

While his defense still needs work, he made some amazing plays in the fourth quarter for an undersized guard on the defensive end including a pair of chasedown blocks.

Alize Johnson showed off everything good and bad about his game

Alize Johnson’s first minute of NBA action had him grab 3 rebounds. He finished with 9 rebounds for the game in his 18 minutes. That skill will translate for him immediately if he ever gets the opportunity to play.

His first basket came off of a running hook through the lane that seems to be in his go-to move as he hit a couple times last night and numerous times in the Summer League. Johnson still can’t dribble with his left-hand so this is something that scouts will take away if he ever does get consistent playing time but until then this is how he can score outside of offensive rebounds.

He attempted two 3-pointers as well but they both badly missed. If he can ever develop that shot consistently, he could play for any NBA team with that added to his defensive versatility and rebounding skills.

He showed some toughness in this one too having to get stitches at halftime and coming back out in the second half of a preseason game. With how often he’s battling for boards down low, it probably won’t be the last time that happens.

Ike Anigbogu is still very raw

Ike Anigbogu didn’t play in the Summer League so this was his first action since last season. He still looked very raw but had a few nice plays down the stretch.

He scored consecutive baskets for the Pacers to put them up 3 with less than a minute left and then blocked a shot on the other end but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Grizzlies.

Anigbogu needs to work on a lot of things but using that huge body of his to set better screens and defensive positioning are two of the biggest. He scored 6 points and added 2 rebounds and 2 blocks last night.

The Pacers still have tremendous chemistry

The starters had the night off but they were intensely invested in the game standing throughout the end of the fourth quarter and overtime and celebrating every success of the young players.

They said this preseason road trip would give them a jump start to building chemistry and it’s no surprise that this group is taking advantage.

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