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INDIANAPOLIS — His sixth NBA season has been a slow transition in getting acclimated with a new team, so T.J. Warren admittedly was pressing too much.

On a Sunday night when the Cheap Minnesota Twins Jerseys
had a makeshift lineup with three injured starters sidelined, Warren adjusted well to playing a more prominent role with a season-high 26 points in a 108-95 home win over Chicago.

“It’s definitely been a process,” said Warren, acquired in the off-season after five years with Phoenix. “I’m just trying to figure out how I can fit in and where I can be effective on this team. It’s a whole new system with guys who have been together for like a month and a half now. We’re still learning each other.”

Warren, a 14.4-point scorer with the Suns, was averaging 12.8 points for the Pacers (3-3) after a humbling 3-point effort on 1-of-8 shooting in a Friday home win over Cleveland. But this night the shots were falling from the outset as he scored 14 first-half points to help the Pacers take a 13-point lead at the break.

“It’s more just him trying to find his rhythm and get a feel for where his opportunities are coming,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan. “We’re still early. It’s going to take some time with this group getting a feel for each other.”

A Pacers squad already missing its best player — All-Star guard Victor Oladipo has yet to make his season debut in his recovery from knee surgery — was also without forward/centre Myles Turner (ankle) and centre Domantas Sabonis (calf contusion).

That meant McMillan was tinkering with lineups he hadn’t even tried in practice, but they worked as the Pacers won their third straight game and sixth in a row against the Bulls (2-5).

“Guys have to be ready to step up and play when that opportunity presents itself,” McMillan said. “I thought tonight, as a group, we did.”

Point guard Malcom Brogdon had 22 points and seven of the Pacers’ team-high 28 assists.

“Having Victor out, you know the type of player he is as an All-Star, and still being able to win games and put it together, it’s been huge for us,” Brogdon said. “But to have Myles and Domas out and still get this win, it’s huge for our confidence.”

Reserve forward TJ Leaf took advantage of extra minutes as a backup centre with his second career double-double, 13 points and 15 rebounds. The third-year pro had entered with seasonal averages of 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds.
INDIANAPOLIS — Malcolm Brogdon is putting up some big numbers for the Indiana Pacers.

The newcomer filled the box score again Friday night with 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists to push the injury-riddled Pacers to their first home win of the season, 102-95 over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I love it. This is a basketball city, a basketball state,” Brogdon said. “People show me a lot of love. I’m going to enjoy playing here.”

Especially as victories come. With their defence tightening and the bench finally finding its stride Friday, the Pacers have won two straight games after starting 0-3.

In avenging a 110-99 loss in Cleveland last weekend, Indiana held the Cavaliers to 37% shooting and forced 16 turnovers in an uncharacteristically low-scoring game.

Jeremy Lamb totalled 21 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana, and Domantas Sabonis added 18 points and 17 rebounds, but it was the second unit that broke open a close game in the fourth quarter.

Reserves accounted for 10 points in a 12-3 run that provided the Pacers an 82-71 advantage, the largest for either side all night. T.J. McConnell, who finished with five points and six assists, faked Collin Sexton into a foul in the lane and completed a three-point play. Rookie centre Goga Bitazde, who finished with 10 points and nine boards and blocked four shots, drained his first 3-pointer during the sequence.

“They told me I’ve got to be ready any time,” Bitazde said. “We’re all for each other. We have good chemistry. We’ve just got to try to keep doing this.”

Indiana outscored the Cavaliers by 15 points in the 25 minutes the 6-foot-11 first-round pick roamed the floor. Bitazde seized his opportunity as Indiana played without the injured All-Star guard Victor Oladipo and starting centre Myles Turner.

“Goga made huge plays,” Lamb said.

Brogdon drained four clutch free throws in the final minute to keep the Cavaliers at bay. Jordan Clarkson, who finished with 20 points and five assists, missed a 3 from the left side that would have brought Cleveland within three points in the final minute.

Brogdon was acquired in a July sign-and-trade deal with Milwaukee, where he played shooting guard and averaged 15.6 points and 4.5 rebounds.

With his new team, at a new position, the fourth-year professional has upped his scoring to 22.6 points per game along with 10.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds.

Sexton had 21 points for the Cavs, who led 26-19 after the first quarter but fell into a 42-37 hole at halftime. Indiana, which shot 41% for the game and missed 22 of 27 3-point tries, was ahead 68-61 entering the final period.

“I thought our bench did a good job in that first half as well as the second lifting us and getting us going.” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “You might have nights like that where your shot’s not falling, and you’re going to need your bench to help you.”

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Kevin Love had 22 points and 17 boards. … The team announced that general manager Koby Altman signed a “long-term” contract extension. Coach John Beilein reacted by expressing his hope for “a really strong partnership, that we’ve got each other’s backs all the time.”

Pacers: TJ Leaf started at power forward with Sabonis moving to centre in place of Turner, who suffered a sprained right ankle Wednesday in a 118-108 win at Brooklyn. Leaf played eight minutes and did not score. … Indiana outscored Cleveland in the paint 56-38.

REMINISCING

During shootaround, Beilein’s mind wandered back to his days in college basketball when he coached Michigan in Big Ten tournament games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“It seemed like whenever we came into this building we were on the bubble,” he said. “We had to go in here and win one, two or three games to get in the NCAA tournament, so I’ve got fond memories. I love this town. Just the way it’s laid out for fans and basketball, I love coming to Indy.”
The Bulls (2-5), winless in five road games, lamented a lost opportunity against an opponent missing key players.

“We’ve been the short-handed team that went out and scrapped it and junkyard-dogged it and beat teams that maybe we shouldn’t have beaten,” said Bulls coach Jim Boylen. “We haven’t been the team that’s favoured very often. And maybe that’s the lesson we’ve got to learn, that whether you’re favoured or not, or whether they’re hurt or not, you’ve got to bring it.”

Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 21 points and Wendell Carter Jr. added 20.

“We’ve got to take advantage of opportunities like this,” said Bulls reserve forward Thaddeus Young, who had 12 points. “I told the team in the postgame meeting this is what we call a trap game. We just didn’t take advantage.”

TIP-INS

Bulls: LaVine joined select company on Friday in his 93rd game in bumping his career point total to 2,020. The only other Bulls to score more than 2,000 points in fewer games were Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (73 games) and Derrick Rose (86), according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Pacers: Rookie reserve centre Goga Bitadze, drafted 18th overall, is making the most of his first extended playing time with nine points against the Bulls after scoring 10 against Cleveland on Friday. Prior to that, he had just two points in two games and did not play in two others.

FAMILIAR NAMES

At one point in the first half, the Cheap Minnesota Twins Jerseys
‘ lineup featured nothing but T.J.’s and Holidays with centre TJ Leaf, forward T.J. Warren, forward T.J. McConnell, guard Justin Holiday and guard Aaron Holiday.

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