For A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity, I will bring a short column that highlights something about this team that gives me hope. The season is long. We need to focus on the positives whether in the midst of a winning streak or the depths of a rough patch. This week, I wanted to think about losing.
First, let me add a note right away: this short column will not be a paean to the (dubious) benefits of tanking that you might find in a certain article not to be named regarding the Pacers.
The Boston Celtics came to Banker’s Life Fieldhouse last week to face a the Indiana Pacers. Even though the Pacers lost by 10, they gave me hope.
Victor Oladipo was out with a bruised knee. The Celtics were also without a key player in Jaylen Brown, but clearly the Pacers missing Oladipo would prove a greater challenge to overcome for the underdog home team.
The Celtics sit atop the Eastern Conference, racking up 18 wins already, which is good for a 3.5 game lead over the upstart Detroit Pistons. No one expected the Pacers to win the game, especially without Oladipo and on the second night of a back-to-back.
Yet, the Pacers won three of the four quarters of the game and led at halftime. The quarter they did not win, the third, was the difference. Boston made 14 of 18 shots. The Pacers made 6 of 18. The Celtics won the third quarter 37-16. The Pacers won the other three quarters by 11 total.
But looking at the box score reaffirmed what makes me enjoy this team so much: balance. Sabonis took 13 shots. Bogdanovic and Thad each took 12; Lance and Turner each took 9.
That balance gave the Pacers a chance and was another example of letting the hot hand or the open man take the shot, whoever that might be. Sure, we could argue that feeding the ball to your best players and letting them take 20+ shots would be better (Kyrie took 20 shots), but that’s not this team’s identity.
That stated, I wish more action could have come Turner’s way. He was 7-9 from the field and had a size or quickness advantage against both Boston bigs, but the defense often encouraged the ball to move away from Turner. It’s almost like Boston has a really good coach or something?
This team will lose games. I’m interested in seeing how they lose. Responding in the fourth quarter down 12 and cutting the lead to 8 multiple times kept breathing life into the Fieldhouse. The scoring run never came, and the Pacers turned the ball over five times in the quarter. It wasn’t the Pacers night, but they fought; what should have been a blowout on paper was a tight game because of the way this team plays.
They never quit. They always fight. It’s part of what makes this team so fun. Even without their star, the Pacers competed for four quarters against the East’s top team.
Oladipo returned days later and destroyed the Magic, hitting his first 11 shots of the game. It’s safe to say he was missed against the Celtics, and I hope both teams are healthy the next time they play. It should be a good one. One thing is for sure: the Pacers will fight.