Final Score: Indiana Pacers 96, Houston Rockets 116
The Philippines is known for its famous tourist attractions, proud culture, and love for NBA basketball. It is no secret that the Filipino community has an undying passion for the NBA, an impressive characteristic for a league so far off from their shores. So when Manila got the chance to host an exhibition game between the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets in the Mall of Asia Arena, there was no denying the excitement felt by the entire city. Even though it was a game between the Rockets and Pacers, fans of all NBA franchises showed their pride, and the crowd was littered with jerseys and shirts of almost every team.
The game was a clash of two very different styles of play. The methodical half-court attack of the Pacers went against the high-octane, fast-breaking onslaught of the Rockets, and it made for some very entertaining basketball.
Takeaways for the Rockets
Last year, the Pacers had the Rockets’ number in both regular season match-ups as Houston had trouble dealing with Indiana’s size and strength inside. But if this game is any indication, the tides may have turned with the Rockets’ addition of Dwight Howard. The Rockets’ fast-breaking style of play got the better of Indiana today as five Rockets scored in double figures, displaying a very balanced offense. Head coach Kevin McHale stated early on in training camp that he would experiment with many different starting line-ups, and he kept to his word today, starting Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones over Jeremy Lin and Donatas Motiejunas. All four players went on to have productive games with Lin, Beverley, and Motiejunas each reaching double-figure scoring. Houston’s starting unit, even with the changes, showed great chemistry once again. The Rockets’ offense was roaring from the start as Houston started the game on a 12-0 run, before David West broke the ice for Indiana at the 8:44 mark of the first quarter. The most notable difference in the Rockets’ play from last season is their team defense. With Dwight Howard now anchoring the middle, other players have more confidence to stick to their man instead of giving help, creating a suffocating defensive scheme. Even though Howard did not have a great line statistically, his presence alone makes a significant difference on defense.
The Good: While Howard anchored the defense, Harden stole the show with his dazzling display on offense, pouring in 21 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, and nabbing 4 steals in 26 minutes of action.
The Bad: The Rockets were once again without Greg Smith, Francisco Garcia, Marcus Camby, Reggie Williams, and most notably, incumbent center Omer Asik who remains sidelined with a calf injury.
The Weird: Five Rockets scored in double figures today, none of them named Dwight Howard.
Takeaways for the Indiana Pacers
After reaching the brink of dethroning the NBA Champions Miami Heat in last year’s playoffs, the Indiana Pacers are hungrier than ever to get back to that point and finish the task. Their main weakness last season was their weak bench unit, and this off-season they addressed that problem and then some. Adding the likes of reserve guard C.J. Watson, promising forward Chris Copeland, and savvy veteran Luis Scola, the Indiana Pacers now possess one of the best bench units the NBA has to offer. Not to mention last year’s starting 2-guard Lance Stephenson may be coming off the pine with the return of Danny Granger. What are the results of the new-look Pacers so far? Well, if the first two preseason games are any indication, not so good. After bowing out to the Bulls in Derrick Rose’s return, the Indiana Pacers were blown out by the Houston Rockets by 20 points in Manila. The starters couldn’t handle Houston’s high-speed, in-and-out attack, and were completely outplayed by Houston’s starting five. The bench unit, primarily Luis Scola and C.J. Watson, pummeled Houston’s second unit and kept the Pacers at a respectable distance. George, David West, Scola, and Watson were the only Indiana players who looked interested playing, and it cost the Pacers the game.
The Good: The bench unit appears to be everything it has been hyped up to be, thoroughly outdoing the Rockets bench.
The Bad: Danny Granger still has a ways to go before returning anywhere near All-Star form, scoring 9 points on 2-10 shooting in 30 minutes of play
The Weird: The Rockets outscored the Pacers in the paint 52-44, and beat the Pacers on the glass 45-39. Dwight Howard only had 9 points and 3 rebounds.
Player of the game: James Harden (Hou)