Heading into this weekend, we wondered if the Pacers would be able to continue their perfect start to the season facing a tough road matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.
But while the Nets are still finding their way from a chemistry standpoint, the Pacers are already there. And behind yet another strong all-around game from Paul George, Indiana improved to 7-0 on the season with a 96-91 road victory.
Brooklyn was in this game throughout, and cut a fourth quarter deficit of 10 points with under five minutes to play to just three in the game’s closing possessions. Joe Johnson had a chance to tie it with 11 seconds remaining, but his three-pointer rimmed out and David West secured the rebound before sealing the win for his team at the free throw line in the game’s closing seconds.
The Nets are going to rely on their starting lineup throughout the season to do the bulk of the damage, and on this night they largely came through as expected. But their bench unit didn’t provide much support, and in fact, neither did that of the Pacers. This was a matchup of the two teams’ best players, and Indiana’s had simply proven to be better by the time the final buzzer had sounded.
George led all scorers with 24 points, and got help from West with 18, while Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert chipped in 15 apiece. The Nets had similar contributions from four of their starters save Kevin Garnett, who managed just six points in 27 minutes but was effective as always defensively.
The only thing worth questioning with Indiana as it relates to the team’s fast start is whether the cohesiveness of having the majority of the same players in place as a season ago is a factor, along with the players’ relative hunger to succeed after coming so close to reaching the Finals last year.
One would think that teams like the Heat and the Bulls will be catching up at some point, but for now, the Pacers have proven to be the class of the league with their undefeated start at this early stage of the regular season.
Through the first two weeks of training camp, the Pelicans have seen their frontcourt depth decimated by injuries to Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik, both of whom are out for a few weeks. A deal with Greg Smith fell through after he failed a physical. Now, Yahoo’s Marc Spears reports that they’re signing former Knicks and Nets center Jerome Jordan as a short-term solution:
Jordan has only played 65 games in his career and hasn’t been spectacular, but the Pelicans need a body while their two centers are out. Anthony Davis will spend some time at center, but considering the contracts Asik and Ajinca got this summer, Alvin Gentry clearly plans on playing him at power forward as well, and they need a center to at least fill time before Asik and Ajinca get back.
He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.
Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:
“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”
Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.
“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”
At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.