The Pacers blew a golden opportunity but the series isn’t over

The table couldn’t have been set any better for the Indiana Pacers to take a commanding 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday night.

George Hill was out of the game with back spasms, moving Jose Calderon, who didn’t play at all in Game 3, into the starting lineup. Kevin Love started the game with two quick fouls in the first quarter, forcing Tristan Thompson, who has been out of the Cavs rotation all series, into action.

But as the Pacers still couldn’t figure out their slow start problem and Cleveland built another double-digit lead in the first half for the third consecutive game, Indiana couldn’t complete the second-half comeback for the second time in four games.

Continue reading The Pacers blew a golden opportunity but the series isn’t over

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How will the Indiana Pacers respond to these possible adjustments by Cleveland?

The Indiana Pacers aren’t just happy to be in the playoffs. Victor Oladipo and company have been saying for awhile that they want to make a run in the postseason and shock the world.

The Pacers thoroughly destroyed the Cavaliers in Game 1 while introducing themselves to the national audience, but everyone knows a LeBron James-led team isn’t going down easy, especially in the first round.

Cavs coach Ty Lue will likely be ready with adjustments and how Pacers coach Nate McMillan and his staff are able to respond to those will determine how successful they can be through the rest of the series.

Here are a few likely adjustments from the Cavaliers and what the options are from there for the Pacers:

Continue reading How will the Indiana Pacers respond to these possible adjustments by Cleveland?

Victor Oladipo says he’ll eat Popeyes again when the Pacers win the championship

After the Indiana Pacers dominated against the Golden State Warriors, Victor Oladipo was asked about his old favorite fried chicken joint, Popeyes.

“I ain’t had that in so long,” Oladipo told the reporter. “Don’t mention that.”

Oladipo said he hadn’t had it in around a year, but that he may have it for a special occasion over the summer.

It would be shocking if the Pacers won the NBA title to just about everybody outside of that locker room, but they’ve been shocking the world all season.

Side note: Oladipo’s claim that he last ate Popeyes about a year ago appears to be false as he seems to have eaten it over the All-Star break according to this Sports Illustrated article:

Over the next 96 hours, he would host one party at a club with Cardi B, another with Snoop Dogg and Floyd Mayweather. He’d sing with Jamie Foxx, dunk with Black Panther and toast Michael Jordan’s birthday at a $100 million mansion in Bel-Air. He’d play Jenga in a sneaker store stock room with someone who goes by The Shiggy Show, an apt moniker for the weekend, and he’d dance alone in front of 1,000 people at a practice. He’d eat sushi from Katsuya and chicken from Popeyes. He’d ride in enough Mercedes Sprinters to fill a presidential motorcade, protected by three security guards and primped by two stylists. They would present him with approximately 40 ensembles, a dozen of which he would wear. He’d wake up early to toss 12-pound medicine balls and do plyometric pushups in the J.W. Marriott fitness center, and at 9 a.m. Sunday, he’d watch online the weekly sermon delivered by Pastor John K. Jenkins at First Baptist Church of Glenarden back home in Maryland.

The Indiana Pacers blowout the defending champs

INDIANAPOLIS–The Indiana Pacers blew out the defending champion Golden State Warriors by 20 points and swept the season series 2-0.

Now, read that again. Pinch yourself. This is not a dream. It’s just another day in what’s been a terrific season.

Yes, the Warriors didn’t have Steph Curry tonight and this game won’t affect their playoff seeding. This game meant basically nothing to the Warriors. No one cares. This was an impressive effort.

“I thought it was a big test tonight,” said Head Coach Nate McMillan. “I was really looking forward to playing them with their roster tonight, just to see where we were.”

Continue reading The Indiana Pacers blowout the defending champs

The Wizards like the possibility of facing the Pacers in the playoffs

The Washington Wizards are throwing bulletin board material at the Indiana Pacers if they do happen to stay matched up as the fourth and fifth seeds in the first round of the playoffs.

“I think we match up good,” center Marcin Gortat said of the possibility of facing the Pacers according to the Washington Post. “We had a much better effort [Saturday] than we did last time at home.”

Continue reading The Wizards like the possibility of facing the Pacers in the playoffs

Myles Turner motivated by teammate calling him “soft”

Myles Turner has been on an absolute tear lately, playing with more confidence and aggression on offense and on the boards that he has in his career.

After leading the Indiana Pacers in scoring with 21 points and adding 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in a win against the Lakers, Turner revealed what motivated him to start playing more physical.

“One of my teammates called me soft,” said Turner to reporters after the game. “I don’t play that sh*t. And two, it’s just something that I know I have to do.”

Victor Oladipo, who was sitting next to him in the locker room, seemed surprised asking Myles who called him soft. Turner responded “not you.”

Turner said the date of the event when he decided to start being more physical was January 31st. The Pacers played the Memphis Grizzlies that night and Turner went to the foul line 12 times as he repeatedly drew fouls in the post.

He’s certainly been more physical lately and has been making many tough offensive rebounds and dunks since the All-Star break. Whoever that teammate was, he isn’t calling him soft now.

“Myles is a dominant player when he’s clicking on all cylinders,” Thad Young, who is (or at least seems to be) unlikely to be the one that called him soft, told Jeremiah Johnson after the game, “and he makes us go.”

Updated: Mark Montieth of Pacers.com reports that Lance Stephenson was not the player that called Turner soft. The mystery continues.

“I’m not going to rat anybody out,” Turner told Montieth while confirming that it wasn’t Stephenson.

Montieth reports that Turner isn’t mad at anyone for it and that it was said in a joking way but with “serious intent.”

“It’s a mental adjustment that he had to make,” Darren Collison told reporters after practice. “It had nothing to do with his physical skills. He’s going to be a very good player for a long time. Once he changed that mentality, he’s going to be just fine.”

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Glenn Robinson III showing flashes of improvement since his return

It was a long wait to get on the court this season for Glenn Robinson III. The Indiana Pacers were patient with him as he rehabbed from his ankle injury in training camp and he’s quickly become a key contributor off the bench.

While Head Coach Nate McMillan expected to only play him 5-10 minutes in his first game back, Robinson played 18 minutes in his debut, showing he was ready to make plays as the backup small forward.

Continue reading Glenn Robinson III showing flashes of improvement since his return

Don’t overlook the passing prowess of Sabonis and Turner

The Indiana Pacers have a pair of exciting young center prospects in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Both players are seen as core pieces of the team’s future and how well they can play together will become more and more important in the next few seasons.

Right now, they spend most of their time on the court with the other on the bench and play the center position and make positive impacts in different ways. Sabonis is the physical, rebounding, screen-setting sparkplug, while Turner is the sweet-shooting, shot-blocking specimen you’d design in a lab for the modern era.

One thing they both have in common is the ability to make plays via the pass, but even here you see them do things differently.

Sabonis is the more natural of the two big men when it comes to passing and is great at seeing where the open man is, while Turner, not often praised for his passing, grew leaps and bounds last season in knowing where the defense is likely to help and who that will leave open.

Their assist numbers won’t wow anyone as they aren’t racking up assists like the Denver’s Nikola Jokic or DeMarcus Cousins before his injury, but both players are a big part of the unselfish nature of this team.

Sabonis, who averages 3.1 assists per 36 minutes, makes one-handed bounce passes on the move to Victor Oladipo on a backdoor cut on the regular in this Pacers pet play (looked at in detail here).

The Pacers run this play with Turner, who averages 1.8 assists per 36 minutes, but not nearly as often. Here’s Turner executing the play to Oladipo.

Many of their assists come from hand-offs where instead of cutting backdoor Oladipo, Cory Joseph, Lance Stephenson and others go around the big man for the ball and take one or two dribbles before taking a jumper. Both players being able to make that backdoor pass allows this play to be more successful as teams are forced to respect the possibility of the cut.

Some of Turner’s best passing highlights come on plays where it doesn’t seem like he should know the guy is open before he makes the pass. Evidence of him simply knowing where the help is most likely to come from on this pick and roll and that the man in the corner behind him will be open. He immediately turns to make the pass on the catch, likely spotting the help defender as he initially turned toward the basket.

Sabonis, on the other hand, is more likely to catch and assess the defense, see where the help is coming from before making the right pass. Same play as the one above is run here but you can see him looking for the first option, seeing that it’s covered and then finding the open man on the opposite corner in Bojan Bogdanovic.

It makes sense why Thaddeus Young called him a quarterback for the offense early this season when he’s progressing through reads like this.

Both young players need work in their post-up games as they’ve had similar mediocre success up to this point in the year with Turner earning trips to the foul line at a tremendous rate but shying away from contact with a mismatch too often  and Sabonis hitting his field goal attempts at an above average clip but turning the ball over more than once every five post-ups.

While Sabonis does struggle with turning the ball over especially when he holds on to the ball too long and allows the double team to trap him, he’s able to make the quick pass when he sees the double coming.

Turner’s passing really shines in the post at times when opponents attempt to double him, which makes his development on that part of his game even more important. If he forces more teams to send an extra defender at him, he can pick apart defenses. He’s great at sending passes across court to the opposite corner to hit the open man.

In this next one, Turner spots both the double team coming from Young’s defender at the rim and Oladipo’s man coming down to cover Thad at the rim. He zips right pass both for an open 3-pointer for the Pacers All-Star.

You can see the natural instincts that Sabonis inherited from his father, one of the best passing bigs in history in Aryvdas Sabonis, come into play often on broken plays.

Any situation where the defense is scrambling like on an offensive rebound or an overly aggressive help defender, he’s able to find the open man at the right time.

He’s able to push the tempo off of rebounds and immediately start the fastbreak by taking a couple of dribbles before making an outlet pass, effectively creating situations where the defense is scrambling on his own.

Both players average about the same number of turnovers as assists, but most of their turnovers are offensive fouls, moving screens or lost balls. Only 23 of Sabonis’s 111 turnovers on the season have been from a bad pass and only 15 of Turner’s 64 turnovers on the season have been bad passes.

As mentioned previously, Sabonis sometimes allows the double team to get too close before attempting a pass and that has caused some of his turnovers. Part of this being his tendency to need to see the open man rather than anticipate it coming at times. He also seems to prefer making straight-line passes and is reluctant to put any touch on his passes in many situations.

Turner’s passing turnovers come from him thinking that a defender wouldn’t be in position but instead they’ve stayed at home or making a tough bounce pass too late to squeeze it into a tight window.

You’re still more likely to see the good than the bad from this still improving players. Here’s some terrific ball movement with Turner as the fulcrum of the offense in the paint.

And perhaps a sneak peak of the future for the Pacers here with Domas making some nice passes to Myles with the first pass showing some hesitation on making the touch pass for the easy layup and the second utilizing the spacing that Turner’s shooting creates.

The Pacers great chemistry is partly due to the unselfishness on the court of all their players, but it’s especially important for the team’s best players to be willing to make the extra pass. That’s almost always the case for the Pacers pair of young big men and they’re just getting started in their careers.

Glenn Robinson III to return Friday, Victor Oladipo’s unused dunk revealed

The wait is almost over. Glenn Robinson III will return to game action for the first time with the Indiana Pacers this season.

After his first full practice with the team, Pacers Coach Nate McMillan said he looked great and much improved from last season.

Continue reading Glenn Robinson III to return Friday, Victor Oladipo’s unused dunk revealed

How Victor Oladipo sets the pace for the Pacers

Nothing speaks louder for Victor Oladipo’s impact on the Indiana Pacers than his team’s record with and without him.

With him, the Indiana Pacers are 33-19.

Without him, they are 0-6. Simply put: no Victor, no victories.

One of the biggest differences that he makes when he’s playing is how much faster Pacers play. While the impact is only little over a couple of possessions per game when he’s on the floor, that’s the difference between ranking 16th in pace overall when he’s on the court and 26th when he’s off the court.

Continue reading How Victor Oladipo sets the pace for the Pacers

By surpassing expectations, the Pacers earn the chance to stick together

Kevin Pritchard has had a long career working in NBA front offices, but this year’s deadline was different than the rest.

Six players came to the Pacers President of Basketball Operations and told him to keep this team together, which be said had never happened before in his basketball life. One player in particular made a strong plea for the group.

“We deserve to see this thing through,” said the mystery player according to Pritchard. “No one believed in us. No one thought we’d be any good. We deserve this.”

Continue reading By surpassing expectations, the Pacers earn the chance to stick together

Victor Oladipo puts on yet another show as Pacers beat Knicks

INDIANAPOLIS–Victor Oladipo flirted with a triple double. Lance Stephenson rocked out on the air guitar a few times during a fourth-quarter run. It was just your typical night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse as the Indiana Pacers (32-25) took care of business against the undermanned New York Knicks (23-34) with a 121-113 victory.

The Pacers defense was a little late to the game after giving up 37 points in the first quarter and 62 at halftime but they still led by six at the break.

“We still didn’t establish ourselves defensively, certainly not in that first half,” said Pacers Coach Nate McMillan. “If we weren’t scoring and shooting the ball at such a high percentage, this could have been a different outcome.”

Continue reading Victor Oladipo puts on yet another show as Pacers beat Knicks

Pacers offering teams cap relief for a first-round pick

ESPN is reporting that the Indiana Pacers have been aggressive in seeking teams out that may be looking to unload salary at the deadline. In exchange for taking on a contract, the Pacers are looking to acquire a first-round pick.

Al Jefferson’s contract is only guaranteed for $4 million next season, so it could provide relief for a team facing the luxury tax or looking to create more space for possible free agent signings.

Tony East of 8 points, 9 seconds says the Pacers could take back $15.55 million in any deal while sending out Jefferson, so a team could possibly save up to $11 million for next season’s cap.

While it’s possible that a team will look to do this type of deal now, it seems more likely to happen this summer. The Pacers also have partially guaranteed deals for Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic, but the Pacers are in no hurry to trade key pieces from this year’s group.

When teams get closer to the free agency season around the draft, they may be more anxious to clear space and then Kevin Pritchard and company can offer the partial guarantees as a way to gather draft picks and assets to the Pacers.

A team that may work now would be the Nuggets. The numbers even work out perfectly.

Nets another possibility though it seems unlikely this deal would include a pick from the Nets.

Dose of Pacers Positivity: Pacers cap situation for next few years is wonderful

The Pacers are in a great position at the trade deadline, but they have to be careful. Take on a bad contract, and things could turn out poorly. Stay the course, and the options look terrific. I present you, Maths: Pacers edition.

The Pacers General Manager Chad Buchanan already said that the team won’t be actively looking to change the team up at the deadline. This team is fun, enjoyable and loves playing together. We should enjoy them for as long as they are around. With many of the players on short-term deals, it may only be one or two seasons. But because of this, the Pacers cap situation for the next couple summers looks great.

Stay with me. I promise this won’t be long. If at any time you need a laugh, just remember to Look Around You.

This season the Pacers are about $6 million under the cap, giving them some wiggle room should a trade develop that asks them to take back salary. However, I want to focus on next season, and the season after that, because hope is in the future. In the Pacers case, the grass really is greener, and right now it’s being cared for by a grounds crew that would make the PGA jealous.

Next year, the Pacers have $74 million in guaranteed salary. There are a few key caveats, though, that might give them more or less, and two player options that will affect who is targeted in free agency.

Assuming Thad Young picks up his player option ($13.7 million), which for our purposes, I hope he does, and assuming Corey Joseph picks up his player option ($7.9 million), which for our purposes, I hope he does (though it’s probably unlikely), the team must decide if Lance Stephenson ($4.6 million) and Joe Young ($1.6 million) are worth it. They are. Boom, we are at $74 million. Or are we (gets paper and pencil)?

Darren Collison and Bojan Threepointovic were signed last summer to two-year, partially guaranteed deals. Should either player be waived before next season, the Pacers open cap room. Collison is guaranteed $2 million and Bojan $1.5 million. Al Jefferson, the forgotten man this season, is guaranteed $4 million next year, and he is in all likelihood very much, very certainly, absolutely, gone.

For our sake (because they have been terrific), let’s just keep DC and BB and give them their $10 and $10.5 million next year. With Al gone (calculating…calculating), the Pacers team salary will be $83 million, and the cap is expected to be $101 million.

With that $18 million, they will need to pay Glenn Robinson, their draft picks, and fill out the roster. It’s not a ton of money, but it’s actually not too bad, and Pritchard has shown his ability to sign players under reasonable deals. Also, as reported by ESPN, a future cash crunch is looming. This makes the money available even better, as the competition to sign contributing players will soften.

What’s really not too bad is the 2019-2020 season. Brace yourself.

The Pacers will have only $34 million in guaranteed salary within a $108 million cap. Whose salary is guaranteed and included in that number? Victor Oladipo ($21 million), Domantas Sabonis ($3.5 million), Myles Turner ($4.5 million), TJ Leaf ($2.8 million), and the ghost of Monta Ellis ($2.2 million).

Are you hyperventilating?  Just Look Around You. The Pacers will have the cap space to, hypothetically, buy the moon.

Lastly, and this short post has been much longer than I wanted, but look again at Oladipo’s salary two years from now. I argued his contract was fine (not good, not bad), in the summer, and that he had a chance to make it look like a good contract. He is, without question, balling out, and I’m hopeful that will continue. Someone else will be making about $35 million…or, you know, the Pacers core combined salaries (plus a ghost) at that time.

To HOPE, my friends!

Darren Collison out up to 3 weeks, Glenn Robinson III “not quite ready” to play

Darren Collison, who has struggled with a lingering knee problem off and on all season without missing many games, will have left arthroscopic knee surgery and be out for 2-to-3 weeks as announced by the Indiana Pacers.

The timing is as good as it can be for the surgery with the All-Star break coming up and that will minimize the amount of games that Collison will miss. This likely also ends any speculation about him being possibly being traded before the trade deadline.

Cory Joseph will start in his absence and Joe Young will likely see an increase in playing time with the second unit.

McMillan said before tonight’s game that Glenn Robinson III is “not quite ready” to play, but he was listed as questionable for the first time all season and has played in two rehab stints with the Mad Ants. His return seems likely to happen fairly soon after playing about 30 minutes per game with the Mad Ants over the weekend and scrimmaged with the Mad Ants while they were in Indianapolis today.

McMillan told Jeremiah Johnson that it looks like it’ll be after the All-Star break for Robinson, which is a little surprising considering the above information.

Victor Oladipo is out with an illness for tonight’s game as well.

Myles Turner showing off all the goods since his return

Myles Turner has come back from his elbow injury looking determined to erase the first half of a season full of setbacks that hasn’t lived up to the high expectations many had for him during the summer.

The Indiana Pacers center is showing off all the goods that make him so intriguing over these past three games while also making strides in the areas that he’s still improving on.

After dealing with foul trouble throughout in his playing time off the bench against the Magic, Turner has averaged 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. His scoring even more impressive when he has only taken 31 shots total (10.3 shots per game) in the three contests and he’s doing his damage in a variety of ways.

Continue reading Myles Turner showing off all the goods since his return

It’s official: Victor Oladipo will participate in the dunk contest

The Indiana Pacers confirmed the rumors tonight: Victor Oladipo will participate in the NBA’s Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend.

Oladipo, the first-time All Star, will defend the Pacers reigning dunk title as Glenn Robinson III will be unable to do so himself as he continues to make strides in his rehab from ankle surgery.

The other participants will be Aaron Gordon, Dennis Smith Jr. and Larry Nance Jr.

Oladipo has been in a dunk contest before when he did a 540 and finished in second.

Glenn Robinson III to return to game action with the Mad Ants

Update: Glenn Robinson III played 27 minutes for the Mad Ants and scored 12 points, while adding 3 assists and 2 rebounds.

Indiana Pacers forward Glenn Robinson III’s long rehabilitation from ankle surgery appears to be nearing its final stop: Fort Wayne. Robinson will make his on-court debut today for the team’s G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

Robinson III has been practicing with the Pacers for just over a week and McMillan said last week that there was a “small chance” that he would return from the ankle injury before the All-Star break.

With this latest update, the odds would appear to be going up, but they may be looking to bring him back slowly and see how his ankle responds to few games with the Mad Ants.

Even if he does return before the All-Star break, don’t expect him to be defending his Slam Dunk title this year.

“This year, unfortunately, the training staff told me that I can’t but we’ll see about the following year,” Robinson III told Grant Afseth of Indiana Sports Coverage. “At least I don’t go out with a loss. I’m out on top and at least it’s not my fault that I can’t do it this year.”

Pacers fans might be able to see All-Star Victor Oladipo compete in this year’s contest, but he hasn’t confirmed the rumors to this point.

Robinson, when he does return, will join a Pacers team that can use more wing depth.

Starter Bojan Bogdanovic struggled in the month of January with a shooting slump (27.5% from 3-point range) and McMillan said he would like to find time for him to rest because he believes fatigue is setting in after playing with his national team and for heavy minutes this season.

Robinson, at minimum, will make it easier for McMillan to find time to rest Bogdanovic. During the summer, many picked GR3 as a potential breakout candidate for the Pacers thinking that he may be able to grab that starting spot at small forward.

The reigning dunk champion worked on improving many aspects of his offensive game this summer and seems ready to put his hard work to the test.

“I think that really, I just take everything from the summer. I worked really hard on ball handling and coming off ball screens,” Robinson told Afseth. “Now when I’m trying to get back, I’m remembering everything I learned and that I worked hard on. It hasn’t gone anywhere, surprisingly. My shot is still there and my handles are still there and getting better. I’ve seen a lot of improvement this summer, so I was a little upset when I got hurt. But if anything, I’m anxious to show everyone what I’ve worked on.”

Last season, he averaged 6.1 points per game on efficient 46% shooting from the field (39% from range) with a low usage rate of 12.8%.

It’s been a slow process for the Pacers young forward as he returns from his first major injury. From getting cleared to shoot and run in December to individual drills in January and now about three months after the injury occurred, full game action.

Rookie Ike Anigbogu and 2-way player Ben Moore are also getting sent down for playing time with Fort Wayne.

Indiana Pacers GM: “We’re in no hurry to change up anything with this team”

Before another thrilling comeback victory at home last night, Chad Buchanan, Indiana Pacers General Manager, was interviewed by Jeremiah Johnson and Quinn Buckner on the Fox Sports Indiana pregame show.

Don’t expect the Pacers to be very active at the trade deadline as the front office of Kevin Pritchard, Buchanan and company are pleased with the way the group has performed and bonded so far.

“We’re in no hurry to change up anything with this team,” said Buchanan, when asked about how the front office is approaching the deadline. “… It’d be great to get into the playoffs because I don’t think anybody anticipated us getting to where we’re at today, but we’re also not going to sacrifice long-term sustainability for a short-term run.”

Continue reading Indiana Pacers GM: “We’re in no hurry to change up anything with this team”

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