Rebounding key as Pacers host Magic
by Conrad Brunner
Granted, you don't want to read too much into statistics from a preseason game, especially the first. And certainly, you don't want to draw conclusions from the Pacers' 49-35 rebounding deficit in their 87-85 loss in Memphis Wednesday night.
Or do you?
"I think you can draw the conclusion it's a problem," said Coach Jim O'Brien. "That's the conclusion I drew."
As the Pacers head into back-to-back preseason games Friday against Orlando in Conseco Fieldhouse and Saturday in Houston, suffice to say that is one team statistic that will attract plenty of attention in the locker room.
The Pacers ranked 28th in the NBA in rebound percentage last season. The subtraction of Troy Murphy's 10.2 per game (11th in the league) makes the issue more acute.
"I don't think we will be less of a rebounding team than we were last year," said O'Brien. "I think we will be a better rebounding team than we were last year. I think we'll be a much better offensive rebounding team and I think we'll be as good of a defensive rebounding team. I don't think it'll go the other way."
To do so, however, the Pacers must strengthen their collective approach. In Memphis, Roy Hibbert and Josh McRoberts combined for 17 rebounds. The other 12 players combined for 18.
"I thought Roy and Josh did a very good job on the glass," said O'Brien. "We are not getting a commitment from the rest of the team, meaning our perimeter guys. Right now you look at Danny (Granger)'s 6-8 on a wing, Mike (Dunleavy)'s 6-9, we're bringing Paul George off the bench at 6-9; they need to be battling. Even our point guard needs to come back."
Hibbert, McRoberts impressive together
The frontcourt combination of Hibbert and McRoberts proved the highlight of the game. Hibbert played 31 minutes and produced 18 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. McRoberts played 25 minutes and had 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.
Those two combined to hit 13-of-17 (.765) from the field, while the rest of the team was 16 of 60 (.267).
"It was encouraging to get a lot of minutes out there," said McRoberts. "I have a lot of room for improvement. I turned the ball over too much and obviously our offense and defense can be better all-around. The first preseason game, you kind of work some things out, see where you're at. It's a good measuring stick."
The two had been impressive when paired together throughout training camp and O'Brien was pleased with how that translated in a game situation.
"I thought they had outstanding games," he said. "Roy is a guy I want to get used to playing 30-plus minutes. Roy really played within himself, was not getting low-post touches not because we weren't calling his plays, they were fronting him and we weren't executing the high-low situation. He found ways to get the job done.
"Josh was outstanding in hustle stats, deflecting the basketball, running the court, by and large making sound decisions even though he had four turnovers they were things he normally doesn't do, turnovers he normally doesn't make. He took what was there, didn't have to force the issue. I really like the growth I see in both Roy and Josh."
Vets take a back seat in early exhibitions
O'Brien said he intends to give heavy minutes to younger players early in the preseason, which means a lighter load for veterans. Mike Dunleavy, for example, started at shooting guard but played jus 16 minutes. Jeff Foster played six off the bench. James Posey and Dahntay Jones also played less than 16 apiece.
"The first three or four games, I'm not worried about the rotation," said O'Brien. "I wanted to get Mike a run, I wanted to get Jeff a run, I wanted to get as much playing time for our younger guys as I could because once you get toward the end of the preseason, chances are your younger guys aren't going to get as much playing time unless they've earned it. I'm trying to give them a good look.
"I like giving both Jeff and Mike a feel for being in and out of the game but I won't necessarily over-play any of our veterans until we get down to like the last three preseason games when I get more towards a regular rotation."
After Saturday, the Pacers don't play again until Wednesday (Oct. 13) against Minnesota in Conseco Fieldhouse.
Posted mainly because it seemed like time for fresh thread.