By David Benner | Pacers.com
Orlando — When Georges Niang went down with a sprained left knee less than 90 seconds into the Indiana Pacers’ first game of the 2017 Mountain Dew Orlando Pro Summer League, someone had to step up.
Two did, a former college teammate and a member of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers’ NBA G League affiliate. So, the Pacers won their opener at the Amway Center, 85-74, over Orlando.
Much is expected from Niang, the Pacers’ 2016 second-round draft pick from Iowa State, in the summer league so the injury — he will be questionable for today’s 5:00 p.m. game against Charlotte — was an early blow.
“Georges went down so I had to step up for my teammates,” said Travis Leslie, the Mad Ant, who led the Pacers with 20 points and added eight rebounds. Leslie stepped into Niang’s power forward position.
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“I had to step up,” said Naz Long, the former Cyclone, who had 16 points. “I hated to see Georges go down like that, he has worked so hard this summer to prepare for this. He said ‘pick me up’ and that’s what I had to do.”
The Pacers led most of this game and by as many as 20. But there were hiccups in the third and fourth quarters that allowed the Magic to eventually tie the game at 69. The Pacers, however, finished the game as they started with a strong push and pulled away in the last five minutes.
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“In the first half (when they led by 20) we came out aggressive on defense sharing the ball on offense,” said Popeye Jones, the Pacers’ Summer league coach. “In the third, our defensive energy was down. Maybe we got tired so it might be my fault for not substituting sooner. But what I liked was we stayed together. They (the Magic) are going to make a run but we settled down.”
Joe Young had 11 points and six assists, Trey McKinney Jones has 11 points and Jarnell Stokes had 10 points with nine rebounds. Chris Johnson led the rebounders with 10.
Rakeem Christmas sat out the game with a sprained left ankle sustained in practice Thursday. T.J. Leaf, the Pacers No. 1 pick from UCLA, will rejoin the team today after attending his brother’s wedding.
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