It took a lot longer than expected, but the Indiana Pacers finally grabbed their first preseason win of 2013 with a convincing 102-79 rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs were actually up pretty much all of the first half until the Pacers turned it on the second half and cruised through to garbage time.
The team is still trying to find its identity on the offensive end (25 assists on 34 made field goals is pretty good though), but the NBA's top defense last season is finally starting to click on the defensive end. It was encouraging to see the team force 22 turnovers which turned into 14 fast break points, though a lot more has to be done on the boards as they were crushed 55-39 (including 17-4 on the offensive glass).
I'm telling you, David West is still the most important player on the team. He had 20 points in 28 minutes (he got to the line 14 times) and had 3 blocks, carrying the team when he had to on a night when Paul George (still recovering from bronchitis) struggled (but still filled the stat sheet with 9 points, 6 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals and a block) and Roy Hibbert was in foul trouble (6 points and 4 fouls in 17 minutes).
George Hill did not score in 21 mnutes (he really needs to get the sleep situation sorted out) and Danny Granger did not play to nurse his strained calf.
The other guy who stepped up was Lance Stephenson, who had one of those games where you get excited about his potential. He scored 13 (on 5-6 shooting) and had 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 25 minutes. Luis Scola was also impressive schooling the young Cavs bigs, scoring 13 points on 5-7 shooting in 22 minutes.
Chris Copeland keeps shooting and he keeps missing (15 points on 5-15, 3-11 from downtown), but he's starting to hit some as well. He hasn't been shy, at least, and if he catches fire then look out!
In other news, top pick Anthony Bennett (11 points, 10 rebounds, 6 turnovers, 3-11 shooting) looks kinda fat.
The Pacers next play the Hawks on Tuesday and Dallas on Friday, with the regular season starting 4 days after that against Orlando at Banker's Life. Coach Frank Vogel has already said that he will shorten his rotations in the last 2 preseason games and prepare for them like regular season games, so it'll be interesting to see how the team fares, especially when I doubt the players are fully recovered from the Asia tour.