The last time the Indiana Pacers played in front of a packed Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the building could have collapsed from all the noise. The hopes of a reclaimed fan base carried the Pacers to a big win over the reigning champion Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. On that summer night, fans swaggered onto Pennslyania Street with the delirious delight that the impossible could happen. But it would have to wait. Months would pass, players came and went, and only the hype stayed at a consistent high clip. On Tuesday, the Pacers returned to the scene with a season-opening 97-87 win over the Orlando Magic. The only discouraging sight for this sell-out crowd was center Roy Hibbert leaving the game with apparent knee pain. Hibbert tumbled to the floor under the Orlando basket with 5:22 remaining in the game and stayed there grimacing. On his own, Hibbert walked toward the bench, which already has a spot reserved for Danny Granger (strained left calf), who will be out approximately three weeks. Though Hibbert did not return to the game, the Pacers announced that he will be able to play Wednesday night in New Orleans. So, the scare did not diminish a dominating defensive night that included Hibbert producing seven blocks and 16 rebounds to go with eight points. Indiana forward Paul George scored a team-high 24points. This was nothing new. George led the Pacers in scoring last year and all through preseason, consistently doing the heavy lifting while the team played as if the 24-second shot clock seemed like the closing walls of a prison cell. The Pacers of last season ranked near the bottom of the league in scoring and on Tuesday night, the reloaded Pacers didn’t seem that much better. At times, the halfcourt sets stalled on the perimeter as a Pacer wasted precious seconds searching for a teammate to make a cut. Other times ball movement simply meant giving the possession away as Indiana committed 21turnovers. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Pacers unlocked the secret to scoring. George fixed three fingers into his customary salute for a 3-pointer and the bench scored just enough to keep fans from remembering the poor reserve play from last year.
Pacers start season with 97-87 win over the Orlando Magic
Indianapolis Star | Oct 30