By CLIFF BRUNT
INDIANAPOLIS — Danny Granger went down with an injury in the first quarter and didn’t return.
Relax. It’s not that serious.
Granger left Wednesday’s 92-85 preseason loss to Dallas with a strained left calf. The injury is noteworthy because he missed most of last season while recovering from surgery on his left knee.
Granger has been the leading scorer for the Pacers for most of his career, and the 30-year-old’s scoring punch is expected to be a key element as Indiana battles Miami, Chicago, Brooklyn and the New York Knicks for Eastern Conference supremacy.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel said taking Granger out for good was a precautionary measure.
“They don’t think it’s serious, but in a preseason game, soft tissue injury like that, they don’t want to bring him back,” Vogel said.
Granger had played a team-leading 87 minutes combined in three preseason games. He left this one with 4:05 left in the first quarter. Vogel was unsure if Granger could have made a quick recovery under regular-season circumstances.
“I don’t know because we didn’t get into that,” Vogel said. “As soon as they said calf strain, it’s preseason. We just stopped the conversation there.”
Granger made 1 of 4 shots and scored three points before leaving the game. Right after he left, Lance Stephenson seemingly took the cue and went off. Stephenson, who is competing with Granger for a starting job, scored eight points in the final 4:05 of the quarter. Most impressive was a flurry of three baskets in 48 seconds that turned a 23-19 deficit into a 25-23 lead at the end of the period. He finished with 13 points and six rebounds on 30 minutes.
Stephenson hadn’t done much offensively in the preseason, scoring a combined 13 points on 3-for-8 shooting in three games. Vogel was glad to see the Stephenson the fans fell in love with in the playoffs, if even just for a few minutes.
“That was encouraging,” Vogel said. “He looked really good. He just controlled the game at that point.”
Granger’s progress had been encouraging before Wednesday. He was coming off a 15-point effort against the Houston Rockets in Taipei, Taiwan and had shown no ill effects from the pounding.
“I think he’s gotten a little better each game,” Vogel said during his pregame media session. “He’s still definitely finding his way.”
Though he has been coming around, Granger has made just 10 of 37 shots from the field this preseason.
“The shot makes will come,” Vogel said. “He’s a scorer. We’re just trying to get all the elements of his game up to par.”
It was going to be tough to get a good read on Granger’s progress Wednesday anyway because most of Indiana’s key players sat out. Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill rested and Paul George has bronchitis.
Without them, the Mavericks had their way for much of the game. Shawn Marion had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Monta Ellis added 13 points and nine assists for Dallas.
The Mavericks were shorthanded, too. Vince Carter rested and Jose Calderon (strained left hamstring), Devin Harris (left foot surgery) and Shane Larkin (fractured right ankle) also did not play.
Luis Scola and Orlando Johnson each scored 14 points for the Pacers. Indiana cut a 23-point deficit to three in the final minutes but couldn’t complete the comeback and fell to 0-4 in the preseason.
“I saw some good things out there, obviously not enough to win,” Vogel said. “Everything that happened tonight, good or bad, is learning or growing.”