By CHRIS GOFF
ISL Assistant Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – Before Tuesday’s win over the Orlando Magic, Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he would use his roster in such a way that kept traditional size on the floor, which possibly resulted in Chris Copeland strangely being left out of the rotation for the season opener.
The Pacers proceeded to block 18 of Orlando’s 57 missed field goals, with those rejections distributed among five different players, topped by Roy Hibbert (seven blocks), David West (five) and Paul George (three) en route to a 97-87 triumph at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“One of our strengths is our length,” Vogel said. “We preach about not fouling and going straight up, getting a hand on the ball, not on the wrist.”
Letting Orlando get to the basket was not a problem, at least not against Indiana’s daunting defense which is so strong around the restricted area.
“We talked about trying to contest everything at the rim and obviously protecting our paint, which is something we didn’t do well in the preseason,” West said. Sure enough, that trend turned around in a hurry, as the Pacers finished with a 16-point differential in paint field goal percentage, and found ways to swat many of Orlando’s most promising opportunities.
“Our nerves were impacting us (early),” Vogel added. “It was a struggle there for a while.”
Generating defensive stops helped calm the team. Vogel has been emphatic that Indiana’s defense is often driven by an ability to deny or alter short shots in the lane.
Indiana’s 18 blocks set a franchise home record, breaking the mark of 16 the Pacers compiled on Nov. 21 last season against New Orleans. The overall club record is 19, done at Washington on Nov. 30, 1979.
“We knew Orlando was a young, scrappy team with the ability to score points in bunches,” West said. “I just thought in the third quarter we were able to settle our defense down, get them under control and work from our defense and out. We talked about protecting home court. We’re happy to come out of here with a win.”