By Jon R. LaFollette (@JonFilet)
The Pacers spoiled the Pelicans’ debut Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena, rallying from a 14-point halftime deficit to win 95-90 and remain undefeated on the fledgling NBA season.
Paul George led the team in scoring with 32 points on 9-of-19 shooting.
Playing the second night of a back-to-back, Indiana started sluggish and lackadaisical. Throughout much of the first half, the Pacers were outworked and flustered by a younger, more athletic, Pelicans squad who pushed the pace at every opportunity.
Roy Hibbert was forced to sit early in the first quarter after being whistled for two fouls.
With Indy’s defensive anchor sidelined, New Orleans’ retooled backcourt of Jrue Holiday and former IU standout Eric Gordon – who scored 15 of his 25 points in the first quarter – attacked the paint and drained uncontested midrange jumpers.
The Pacers’ woes on defense were matched by their stagnant offensive. After two quarters, the team committed 11 turnovers, shot a dismal 35 percent and trailed 50-36.
The second half, however, was dictated by Indiana.
Led by Hibbert’s five blocks and George’s two steals, the Pacers reestablished their defensive identity and exerted their size in the paint – getting to the foul line 21 times.
George Hill, who struggled for much of the game, found his shot in the fourth quarter – scoring eight of his 19 points and sinking a pair of key 3-point baskets late to push the team to victory.
Indiana should have expected such a scrappy, nail-biting game. Of the team’s last four meetings against New Orleans, two games were settled in overtime while a third saw the Pacers gut-out another come-from-behind victory.
The loss dampened what was a busy and optimistic summer for the Pelicans – who were without starting forward Ryan Anderson (broken toe). The team changed its name from the Hornets, made notable roster additions in trading for Holiday and signing former Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans, renovated its arena and debuted a mascot that will haunt your dreams forever.
New clothes, familiar outcome.