It’s been a tough preseason to be an Indiana Pacers fan. You’ve had to watch Derrick Rose come back and destroy, like everyone thought he would. You’ve had to watch the Brooklyn Nets move to 3-1 in the preseason, despite having a brand new team. And you’ve even had to watch the Charlotte Bobcats win more games than the Pacers. Nothing changed against the Dallas Mavericks, but at least the bench showed their first signs of promise.
Against the Mavericks on Wednesday, the Pacers played only one starter, Lance Stephenson. The rest of the normal starters — George Hill, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert — sat out the entire game, and current sixth man, Danny Granger, wound up injured once again.
So, what happens when your potential regular season starting five sits out? You lose by seven, of course.
Despite being down 23 points at one point in the second half, the Pacers fought their way back with 1:38 remaining in the game. Orlando Johnson finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, Luis Scola added 14 points of his own, and Stephenson put on a show reminiscent of Game 6 against the New York Knicks while finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and two assists.
Take out the 13 points Stephenson scored and the three-pointer Granger hit, and the Pacers’ bench scored 69 points. That’s definitely an impressive feat, given how disastrous last season’s bench played.
It’s very reassuring to see the Pacers’ bench keep up with a team who had three of their best players playing — Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Shawn Marion. Scoring came from all angles, but there were still some major deficiencies within the lineup. The Pacers were out-rebounded for the fourth straight game, they failed to record a single block, and 17 turnovers should not be the norm.
The Pacers play their last four preseason games in the next week. Head coach Frank Vogel will likely continue to mess with lineups and hold out starters, but if the disastrous preseason turns into a dominant regular season, then it will have been completely worth it. But is one win too much to ask for?