It was very much a Happy New Year for the Indiana Pacers.
Despite learning earlier in the day that T.J. Warren is out indefinitely needing foot surgery, the Blue and Gold walloped the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-99 and improved to 4-1 under new coach Nate Bjorkgren. According to ESPN, Warren will miss a significant portion of the NBA regular season.
With a team like the Pacers though, it’s next man up.
That man was Doug McDermott. The former Creighton Bluejay is settling into a consistent role, playing a good amount of first team minutes. McDermott scored 18 points on NYE and added nine rebounds. But the difference was from beyond the arc, where he went 3-of-6.
“I feel comfortable in this system,” McDermott said. “I’m trying to be as aggressive as possible and to do my job at the highest level. I think that starts with coming in and bringing juice. Once this team gets defensive stops, I’m at my best in transition. I think I’m really thriving there and am trying to get as many rebounds as I can.”
Add a big game from McDermott to the mix along with yet another Domantas Sabonis double-double, and Cleveland is going to have problems. Sabonis has a double-double in every game so far this season. That includes a triple-double up in Chicago.
Not having Warren is going to hurt, especially from a scoring standpoint. But this is a Pacers team that plays hard in every aspect no matter who is on the floor.
“Our guys came out of the locker room ready to defend,” Bjorkgren said. “It equated into transition baskets and easier looks on the offensive end. Another hard fought and physical game. I’m asking Myles and Domas to keep the big guys off the glass and make sure they don’t get the board. It’s a team rebounding effort.”
13 Indiana players saw playing time against the Cavs as well. The bench won’t go that deep every night, but it’s a chance for everyone to contribute. As well as an opportunity for Bjorkgren to see what he truly has and figure out how to replace Warren’s minutes.
And who is probably going to get that playing time? Whoever can show the most physicality and toughness in practice.
“We really feel like we have something to prove,” McDermott said. “We’ve been disappointed about how the last few years have ended and also think that we’ve been slept on a little bit.”
For some teams, losing a guy like Warren would be backbreaking. But with the mentality that Indiana has, it’s still not going to be an easy road for anyone coming to play in the 317.
Next up? A rematch with the New York Knicks tomorrow night at 7:00 PM.