Pacers handle Cavaliers, lose Justin Holiday and experiment some more in second preseason game

The starting lineup was tweaked, Justin Holiday went down with an injury and Malcolm Brogdon scored 27 in a win.

Lineup changes, tweaks to the rotation and new combinations. Get used to it from these Pacers for the time being, both because of injuries and experimentation under the direction of a new coaching staff.

The most important part of the preseason is getting through it healthy, but already the Pacers’ injury list is four deep (not including Edmond Sumner).

Guard Keifer Sykes was ruled out before the game after he tweaked his right ankle in the preseason opener and then Justin Holiday rolled his left ankle pretty good right before halftime of Friday’s game in Cleveland. He did not return.

“We hope he won’t be out long, but he will miss some time,” head coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. “Don’t know how much.”

Holiday has been Mr. Dependable for the Pacers. He was the only one to play in all 72 games last season and hasn’t missed a game due to injury since the 2015-16 season — a streak of 381 consecutive regular-season games, including all 145 as a Pacer.

He had moved into the starting lineup, last year for 52 of 72 games, and already this preseason as T.J. Warren remains out indefinitely. It happened as he was sliding to his left on the defensive end. After he got up, he sat at the front of the bench for a minute and rubbed his lower-left leg, but knew it wasn’t right.

The severity of the injury will be known once swelling goes down and after tests, but that Voodoo doll has to go; the Pacers are due for a regression toward the mean. Holiday stayed in Indy over the offseason and worked out daily to be in the best shape of anyone. And now this.

Even before the game, Carlisle went with a different starting lineup. Rookie Chris Duarte, who led the team in scoring against the Knicks, replaced Jeremy Lamb with the starting group. He finished with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists.

Carlisle is like a scientist in the laboratory. He’s got his lab coat on and is seeing what players perform well with one another. It won’t be smooth each time, but he’ll get there eventually.

None of the changes are permanent. Being new to a group that was almost entirely together the last few seasons, he’s trying to figure out what he has. So on Thursday, he began mixing up all three groups. “I just thought shuffling the deck made some sense,” he said.

The Pacers disposed of the Cavaliers, nearly winning all four quarters if not for allowing a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left. They held the Cavs to 42-percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers en route to a 109-100 win.

“I thought we did a much better job overall in the game defensively, particularly in the second half,” Carlisle said. “(Malcolm) Brogdon and (Domantas) Sabonis were tremendous. I kept them together all night. We had a lot of other guys do a lot of good things. The spirit and the disposition was much better tonight than in New York and we’re gonna have to continue with that.”

Instead of playing the entire first quarter, Sabonis was the first player taken out. T.J. McConnell and Torrey Craig, the offseason signee who is even more important with Holiday out, came in and joined Duarte, Holiday and Turner.

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