The Pacers are expected to contend for the Eastern Conference crown, while the Magic are rebuilding and have no goals beyond player development for the upcoming season.
The end result of the first game of the year reflected those expectations, as Indiana pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Orlando by a final of 97-87.
Whether due to opening night rust or slightly undervaluing their opponent, the Pacers took longer than expected to put this one away. Orlando was within a single point with six seconds remaining in the third period, before Indiana went on a 15-1 run over the next three and a half minutes or so to take control for good.
Paul George led the Pacers with 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting, to go along with six rebounds, five assists, and three blocked shots. Roy Hibbert was dominant defensively, and finished with a ridiculous line of eight points, 16 rebounds, and seven blocked shots in just 27 minutes of action. He left the game late in the fourth after knocking knees and then slipping to the floor before limping off, but the Pacers later said he could have returned and he will play in his team’s next game.
On the Magic side, Andrew Nicholson made the biggest impact off the bench, scoring 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting in 19 minutes of action. Rookie of the Year candidate Victor Oladipo showed some signs in his first real NBA action, but also was victimized by the Pacers’ rim protection on more than one occasion. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting in 23 minutes off the bench.
Lance Stephenson had a big night in the starting lineup for the Pacers, and finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Indiana would love to get that level of production consistently out of him, but overall, the Pacers will be happy with their opening night performance, and the way they were able to pull away late to secure the team’s first victory of the season.
Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days
That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.
Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return
“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.
This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.
The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.
Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”
For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.
For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.
This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.
“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”
When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.
“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”
Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.
The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.
Frustrated Gregg Popovich calls all three referees “f****** blind”
If you’re on the court when your team gets in an NBA “fight” — what the rest of us would call a shoving match where nobody really wants to throw a punch — should you run into the fray and help your teammates?
Friday night, with just more than three minutes to go in Phoenix’s eventual win, the Suns called a timeout, and Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one of those silly shoving matches. Players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up.
The Suns’ rookie Josh Jackson picked up a technical for his role racing in and escalating the matter.
Watch the video again, and you’ll see Lakers’ rookie Lonzo Ball just walk away from it all and head to the bench.
That has led to criticism of the rookie from some Lakers’ fans, who see a guy who didn’t rush in to protect his teammates — that’s seen as part of the sports locker room culture. A “band of brothers” or “us against the world” mentality. Ball, frankly, gave a more mature answer than that.
Listening now to the Lonzo Ball audio – "It's the NBA. People ain't really going to fight. I ain't trying to get no tech."
Ball is right, nothing was going to come of this. It was meaningless posturing. Walking away was the mature move.
However, the question is how is this perceived in the Lakers’ locker room? Do the players care that Ball shrugged and walked away? Do they think he needed to race in and try to look tough like everyone else? That can impact his standing on the team — as a guy Magic Johnson brought in to be a leader — more than anything.
Also, with all his shooting woes, is this the first sign of some Lakers fans starting to turn on Lonzo? It’s a little early for that.