Lance Stephenson dribbles the ball for the Pacers against a Cleveland defender
CLEVELAND, OHIO - JANUARY 02: Lance Stephenson #6 of the Indiana Pacers drives to the basket around Brandon Goodwin #26 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second quarter at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on January 02, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The Health and Safety Protocol Pacers Could Learn a Thing or Two From the Reserve Team’s Effort

Whatever the new Indiana Pacers team hashtag #GoldBlooded truly means, this year’s version of the Blue and Gold has not played like it.

For a team that is run by ownership and front office members who know they cannot attract massive stars to Indianapolis, along with players who seemingly are supposed to play with a chip on their shoulder, it’s confusing.

Rick Carlisle’s presence has felt different compared to last year with Nate Bjorkgren. And even prior to that with Nate McMillan. But what I don’t understand is what we saw on Sunday night in Cleveland.

I’m not talking about the final score either. I mean the effort and desire that we saw to win the game (minus the end of the third quarter). 15-0 runs usually don’t suit you well when you are the team getting washed.

The Pacers started G-League baller but equally unknown Keifer Sykes, along with young and potential-filled Duane Washington Jr. at the guard spots versus the Cavs. They were grouped along with Justin Holiday, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner.

Okay, maybe not so bad with the final three in that lineup. But wait, there’s more. Lance Stephenson is back in Indy. ‘Born Ready’ was ready. But he was one of the first options available off the bench, along with fellow 10-day contract bearer Justin Anderson.

Yes, the same Justin Anderson who suited up and played for Cleveland as of December 28. And yes, the same Justin Anderson who before signing with the Cavs last played in an NBA game against the Pacers with the 76ers in December of 2020.

Crazy.

After the game, Carlisle praised the effort by his team never giving up and not once hanging their heads on the bench. Maybe guys like Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert can pick up a few extra things when they’re back in the film room and out of Health and Safety Protocol.

It’s one thing to have guaranteed money and an official spot on the Pacers. Guys like Lance, Sykes, and Anderson don’t. And they played on Monday like they didn’t have a surefire way into the lineup next game; Which they don’t.

Somehow, someway, Indiana needs to build some juice around how they play. Maybe seeing a bunch of guys come in off the street to nearly beat a good Cavaliers team can do that.

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