SportsPulse: The NBA has finally gotten back underway and our NBA experts ranked all 22 teams participating in the reset.
A four-plus month layoff. The starting point guard out. The only starting big in major foul trouble early. It was a typical night at the office for the Indiana Pacers in their first game Saturday as their season restarted at the bubble in Orlando.
They pulled out the 127-121 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers to win the season series and get the upper hand in race for Eastern Conference seeding. T.J. Warren set a career-high with 53 points on 20-of-29 shooting, including 9-of-12 from 3-point range. His season-high was 36. His previous career-high was 40 with the Phoenix Suns. Only Reggie Miller (57) and Jermaine O’Neal (55) have scored more in an NBA game for the Pacers.
“It was a special game,” Warren said. “Locked in. Laser-focused throughout the whole game. My teammates did a great job of feeding me the ball and being myself out there. Doing what I do best. Put the ball in the basket.”
Malcolm Brogdon (neck) missed his 18th game as coach Nate McMillan had to roll out a starting lineup he’d never used before. Aaron Holiday, Victor Oladipo, Warren, Justin Holiday and Myles Turner played together twice during the season for less than a minute.
“Malcolm had an injury in our last (scrimmage) against the Spurs. Got hit across his neck,” McMillan said before tip-off. “His neck stiffened up the last two days. He tried to go through shootaround this morning and just couldn’t turn and didn’t feel he was able to play tonight.”
For at least one game, that didn’t matter.
The Pacers (40-26) were forced to used a lineup they’d never anticipated after three scrimmages. And they overcame the tremendous size advantage of Philadelphia, which was led by Joel Embiid (41 points, 21 rebounds), Tobias Harris (30 points, eight rebounds) and Ben Simmons (19 points, 13 rebounds).
Trailing 98-88 with 8:38 to play, the Pacers came back. Turner (nine points) came alive with some clutch buckets, as did Aaron Holiday (15 points, 10 assists), Oladipo (15 points), T.J. McConnell (10 points, eight assists), Doug McDermott (10 points) and, of course, Warren.
“We just had to make it difficult for them. T.J. Warren was hot,” Oladipo said. “Our bench was phenomenal. Guys did little things. At the end of the day, we fed the dragon. Everybody else did what they had to do for our team to win.”