The Fieldhouse will be rockin tonight as the Pacers make their first game appearance for local fans after not playing any practice games at home. Victor Oladipo will lead the charge in game one of 82 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizz beat the Pacers in preseason in a game that went into OT but will not resemble the opener in any way. For starters (literally), Mike Conley and Marc Gasol did not play for the Grizz, while Nate McMillan rested the entire starting lineup for the Pacers.
Carmel native, Jaren Jackson Jr. led all scorers in the practice game and will make his regular season NBA debut on Wednesday. Even more familiar to local fans will be the Grizz backcourt rotation with Mike Conley back in the starting spot after missing 70 games last season. Conley won three state titles on the Fieldhouse floor for Lawrence North before moving onto the NBA after a quick stop at Ohio State.
Conleys backup will be Butler legend, Shelvin Mack. Starting his eight season on his sixth team, Mack has carved out a nice playing career in the NBA. He was offered no minutes when he signed with Memphis but has earned the backup job to begin the season.
Big man Marc Gasol will present the biggest issue for the Pacers and force Myles Turner to start earning that contract extension right out of the gate. The Pacers beat Memphis in both meetings last season, although the Grizz were a shell of themselves in the second game without Conley, Gasol and Tyreke Evans.
Oh, yeah. Tyreke Evans may very well be the difference in this matchup. In the Pacers 116-113 win at Memphis last year, Gasol had 35 points and 13 rebounds while Evans had 18 points and 9 assists off the bench. With Evans coming off the bench for the Pacers, the reserve unit should tip in the Paces favor.
While there are plenty of familiar faces on the visiting Grizz roster, it will be far more exciting to see the Pacers get the Fieldhouse cookin for the first time this season!
The Indiana Pacers controlled the game from the opening tip and ground the “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies into a fine bear powder. At one point in the first, the Pacers were enjoying a 17-3 margin on the glass and finished with a dominating 57-28 advantage there.
It’s only the first game, and maybe this is the year the wheels fall off of the Gasol/Conley combination, but goodness gracious did the Pacers pummel this poor Grizzlies team. Gasol and Conley combined to shoot just 5-22 from the field as the Pacers held the Grizz to just 30% shooting overall. Marc Gasol tried repeatedly to attack Myles Turner on the low block, and got absolutely nothing for his efforts.
A stronger Turner rebuked him repeatedly in a match that Gasol has dominated handily in the past. No starter played more than 28 minutes in a feel-good romp that saw the Pacers dominate in the paint and on the glass. It’s not a very “2018” feeling map to success, but if the combination of Turner/Sabonis/Thad Young can bludgeon teams like this nightly, the Pacers have no need to change that formula whatsoever.
The Good: Rebounding. My biggest concern for the Pacers coming into this year was answered resoundingly for at least 1 game, as the Pacers carried a 57-28 advantage on the glass.
The Bad: Not much. T.J. Leaf rolled an ankle and didn’t return. Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans combined to only shoot 2-10 from deep, after being at 49% and 40% respectively last season. Overall, a great, great win.
MVP: Domas Sabonis. He looked hungry out there and took advantage of just a smidge of foul trouble by Myles Turner. Nate couldn’t find reasons to sit him, and he led the team in minutes tonight.
LVP: Darren Collison. He was the only Pacers rotation player who finished with a negative +/- (-1) and didn’t really do anything. Conley did have a rough offensive game, which DC should get at least a bit of credit for.
X-Factor: Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogie led the team in scoring with 19 and scored 8 of the first 10 Pacers points. The rest of the Pacers carried this hot start throughout, and Bojan appeared to have set the tone well while only missing 2 shots on the night.
That’s right, everyone get’s an A. They all earned good grades for dominating the first game of the season, every if some dudes played better than others.
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