That the Pacers might struggle to score without three starters was understandable, even acceptable.

How the offense operated in the absence of George Hill, Danny Granger and David West in the preseason debut was not. Coming off a dismal performance in an 84-70 loss to the Timberwolves Wednesday in Fargo, N.D., Pacers play their first home game Friday.

They’re hoping to be able to put a little more on the giant new scoreboard that will be on display when they face the Timberwolves in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. All of the features of the new scoreboard will not be unveiled until the regular-season home opener on Nov. 3 against Sacramento.

The Pacers shot 35 percent, had 25 turnovers (against 14 assists) and were outrebounded 42-39 by Minnesota. Paul George scored 16 and was the only Indiana player in double figures.

Though Hill (thumb) and Granger (knee) aren’t likely to play Friday, West should be back in the lineup. Coach Frank Vogel sat the veteran in Fargo in order to get a longer look at Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Pendergraph, who are battling for the backup spot at power forward.

Results of that experiment were inconclusive. Hansbrough had four points, seven rebounds and three turnovers in 20 minutes. Pendergraph had four points and four rebounds in 22 minutes. They combined to shoot 3-of-12.

“I don’t buy into our three starters being out as an excuse for bad execution,” Vogel said. “We didn’t execute appropriately, in particular on the offensive end. Our defense was OK. But we were just careless with the basketball with our passing, our screening was poor, we just didn’t make adjustments.

“They played a defensive style that’s pretty different than what we play so our guys hadn’t seen it for eight days and they just didn’t make adjustments on the fly but we’ll be fine.”

Granger participated in full-speed drills for the first time Thursday, a sign he is making progress, but will be brought along cautiously in the preseason.

After a mysteriously slow start to last season, the Pacers want to make sure their leading scorer is better prepared this time around, and enough time remains for that to happen.

“It’s absolutely a concern but health is more of a concern,” Vogel said. “ I’d rather get him healthy and then work on his timing and rhythm.

“(The medical staff has) a plan to have a build-up toward the start of the season and we’re just following that plan.”

Vogel kept Hill out to protect a thumb that has been sore since taking a hit early in training camp.

As the preseason schedule ramps up – the Pacers have three games in five nights next week – Vogel would like to see the team sharpen its rough edges.

“Just better execution, recognizing what the defense is giving you and then playing accordingly,” he said. “When you take what the defense gives you the game’s easy. We didn’t take what the defense was giving us.

“I was disappointed in their ability to adjust last night but it’s preseason and we don’t have your normal scouting reports and all the normal preparation. I obviously want to win every game and you want to execute better but we’ll be fine.”

Next week, the Pacers host the Hawks Tuesday, travel to Orlando Friday and then return home to face Memphis on Saturday. The regular season opens Oct. 31 in Toronto.

 
 
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