The Indiana Pacers season is over after being swept for the second time in three years during Nate McMillan’s tenure as head coach. Should they start searching for a replacement to get them deeper into the postseason?
If you only look at the team’s overall performance this season, it’s hard to see why the Pacers would want to move on at this current moment. Victor Oladipo missed 46 games and the Pacers impressively matched their win total from the previous season at 48. That’s a huge accomplishment. They’ve exceeded all reasonable expectations in each of the last two years and he’ll deservedly get a few votes for Coach of the Year this season because of that.
Indiana had the third-best defensive rating in the league and the team gave maximum effort every game, never giving up no matter the circumstance. McMillan’s disciplined approach clearly has had its effect on this group, and the players have bought into the culture of the 3Ts (Toughness, Togetherness, Trust) and have praised him at various times in recent memory. Continue reading Should the Pacers fire Nate McMillan?→
INDIANAPOLIS–The Pacers have looked like they’ve been out of energy for weeks.
Tonight, as they faced a Brooklyn Nets team that was trying to clinch a playoff spot, it showed enough for Pacers head coach Nate McMillan to speak candidly about it after the game.
“We’re talking about we want to play,” said McMillan, “but I may have to make some decisions for some guys [to rest]. Because our motor is very low right now, that effort that we saw at the start of the game. We can’t start like that.”
Dan Burke says the #Pacers need to clean up the defense in the second half: "I don't see the old Pacers D right now… We got to scrap a little better, fight a little better for those rebounds." pic.twitter.com/f4GupQOdQC
McMillan highlighted the 12 offensive rebounds in the first half as a sign that the Pacers had no fight in this one, and while he doesn’t think it’s a lack of effort, he did admit that perhaps the team has hit a wall.
“Guys have given extra since Victor’s been out. We’ve had to lift and probably ask for a little bit more from this group since we lost a key player like that,” said McMillan. “… We’ve squeezed our guys a lot to get to this point. Is there anything left? I think so.”
McMillan said they will have the day off tomorrow and will be in talks with everyone to see what they need to do in terms of rest to be ready for the playoffs next week. The Pacers are just one win shy of their 48 wins from last year while Oladipo has missed over half the season. It’s an impressive feat but the team has been running on fumes.
The Pacers have struggled with their tough schedule since the All-Star break, seemingly playing a team fighting for something in the playoffs every night. They’ve gone 7-14 since February 25th and just 3-9 since March 16th.
“If we hit a wall or run out of gas, there’s nothing we can really do about that but try to rest as much as possible and continue to go out there and play,” said Thad Young. “That happens when your star player goes down. You have to give a little bit more. You have to elevate your game. It’s a process. … The biggest thing is just to continue to play, stay the course and making sure we’re there on the defensive side.”
Young was very focused on the poor defensive effort from the Pacers tonight, mentioning the many lapses on that end with backdoor cuts, letting guys blow by them, not smashing down on rebounds.
“Defense is what wins games for us and we haven’t been playing very good defense,” Young said. “… That’s not what we do as a team, we keep guys in front of us, we play physical on the defensive end and we make teams work for each and every bucket. That’s what we haven’t been doing.”
Young suggested the team going back to the basics and doing “high-school” drills like closeouts and putting guys in forced help positions.
Domantas Sabonis, who had his 30th double double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds, wasn’t a fan of the idea of taking games off or resting games but even he noted that the team has lacked energy.
Domas Sabonis doesn’t like the idea of taking games off but also notes that the team is lacking energy. pic.twitter.com/M8B15RxGIp
“I think it’s the energy,” Sabonis said of what needs corrected before the playoffs. “If we don’t have energy, we can’t guard. Everyone’s thinking ‘Oh, he’s going to help me out, he’s going to help me out,’ but we just got to stick together. The main thing is not falling apart.”
The Pacers have one week before the playoffs begin to recharge and find the energy necessary to pull off the upset against the Celtics. They’re now officially locked into the 5th seed.
“I’m very confident in our group that we’re gonna do well,” said Darren Collison, who made his return to the lineup by making just 2 of his 12 shot attempts. “I think we match up well with them; we’ve been playing them well all year long. I’m not just looking at the last game. I think when we play our best, we can beat any team in the East and I’m very confident about that.”
For the Pacers to be at their best, they made need to take this week and rest.
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Myles Turner has shown some things on the offensive end of the floor over these last two games that he hasn’t in the first three years of his career. The Indiana Pacers just lost their superstar and they need someone to step up.
Turner looks like he can help fill some of that Oladipo-sized void on offense. Now he just needs the ball with some consistency.
In the first half against the Grizzlies, Turner only had three shot attempts. After playing well in the third quarter with 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting and doing his DPOY-candidate thing on the defensive end, he didn’t come back into the game until four minutes were left in the fourth quarter and didn’t attempt another shot until less than one minute was left. This kind of thing just shouldn’t happen as often as it does with a player like Turner.
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The lack of consistency in touches for Turner has long been an issue for the Pacers. While his stats may say that his development has been stagnant during his career, it feels more true that it’s his role that hasn’t evolved along with him. Especially when you see him make some of the moves he’s made recently.
Myles Turner waving off DC to do this was the best thing that’ll happen tonight.
Turner waves off Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic to take that last possession ISO of the half and makes a gorgeous hesitation move to blow by the defender and get the dunk. How many centers are making that move? Earlier in the half, he beat Kevin Durant in a one-on-one situation with a pump fake and nailed the shot. You have to find more ways to get a guy like this frequent touches with chances to score.
With no Oladipo, there’s no reason for him to not be involved more often than he currently is. His usage percentage has dropped from 22% in December to 16% in January before the game against the Warriors. He’s taking three less shot attempts per game than he did in the previous month. That trend can’t continue.
Turner, to his credit, is starting to take things into his own hands at times. He’s been aggressive with driving the ball from the perimeter way more in the last two games than he ever has been, especially when it’s been awhile since he’s taken a shot. This was his first shot attempt since four minutes were left in the first quarter against Memphis.
We're seeing Myles Turner attack more often in these last two with drives from the perimeter and it is good. pic.twitter.com/nEDKKBI6Mh
Maybe this is what he needed to do all along, but it’s hard to put the lack of purposeful involvement on Turner, when he was once told he needed to “distribute more” after having the best month of his young career in January 2017 when he averaged 17.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
The purpose of that from Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan at the time was to encourage Turner to make the extra pass, instead of shooting it at every opportunity. While Turner has made many strides as a passer since then, it feels like the pendulum never swung back to Turner being a centerpiece for the Pacers offense. All of these passes in last two games are plays that he likely doesn’t make during his rookie season.
A few Myles Turner assists in last 2: 1) Finds an open DC and sets a screen to prevent a closeout 2) Reads the help on a short roll to find wide open Evans 3) Starts to make a move before making a nice bounce pass to Thad under basket pic.twitter.com/TVnjdPWCWW
Two of these passes come after he starts to try and create for himself. Giving him the freedom to create more often may allow him to be a better playmaker for others at times as well.
Turner’s starting to make moves off the dribble that are insane for a big man. The amount of space this crossover creates should have McMillan drooling over his young stud. His defender almost falls over on this play!
The #Pacers need to make a concerted effort to involve Turner more on offense because he is so much more talented than his role would suggest. Watch how much space he is able to create on this pull-up, despite the miss. pic.twitter.com/vanxex8OIU
It’s always felt like he has a shorter leash than others when it comes to shot selection though this seems to be getting better.
The Pacers are starting to embrace his 3-point shot more and more of late which is good to see. Turner took seven from distance against the Grizzlies and finished by making his last three attempts after missing his first four. The fact that he kept shooting them despite the slow start is huge.
Myles Turner needs to average at least 15 shots a game the rest of the year. That top of the key jumper should be happening constantly, not twice a half at best. If there is any silver lining to all this, it will be him finally becoming aggressive.
After starting the year off slowly as a 3-point shooter making just seven of his first 31 attempts, he’s made 30 of 63 long-range shots since December (47.6%).
Turner was one of few bright spots in the blowout loss to the Warriors. He was one of only a few players that looked like they belonged on the floor competing against the defending champs. The Pacers have to find more ways to get him opportunities on the offensive end.
Ponytail Myles, The Last Samurai, has been a sight to behold.
20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks in the four 🐴 games.
The Indiana Pacers lost Victor Oladipo to a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game. He suffered a ruptured quad tendon that could put him out anywhere from six to twelve months.
There are no adequate words to describe the numbness that comes in the moments and hours directly after witnessing an injury that devastating. Shock, disbelief, clinging to some tiny hope that it isn’t as bad as it seems.
There was no joy in watching the Pacers continue to play after Oladipo was taken out on a stretcher. No anxiety as the game was close in the final minute. None of that mattered much. The Pacers had already lost more than this one game could possibly make up for. Continue reading Where do the Pacers go from here?→
The Indiana Pacers played what may end up being their worst game of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers last night.
The game was marred by a lack of energy throughout and crucial miscues in the final minute including three consecutive missed free throws by Victor Oladipo and a blatant foul that went uncalled as Larry Nance Jr. tossed Oladipo to the ground before tipping in the game winner at the buzzer as the Pacers lost 92-91. Just like that the hottest team in the league lost to one destined for the lottery.
Every good team has a game or two like this during the course of the season, but what if I told you this one may have been predetermined by cosmic forces beyond their control?
This isn’t the first time a frustrating, painful loss occurred recently on December 18th for Indiana. It’s starting to look like they’re cursed on this seemingly random day in the final month of the calendar year.
Which of the following sounds more likely? A career 85.8% free-throw shooter refusing to take the foul with his team ahead in the final seconds and instead throw up a hot-air balloon of a pass near the half-court line or the Pacers are simply dealing with some dark magic on this otherwise inconsequential day in their history?
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The NBA is back and the Indiana Pacers return tonight in their season opener.
The Eastern Conference is more wide open than it has been in maybe a decade now that you-know-who has taken his talents to the West, but most of the pundits seem to point to the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors as the favorites to get to the NBA Finals.
While most expect the Pacers to finish at about the same spot in the playoffs as last season, they enter the year with an upgraded bench and a returning starting lineup that had so much chemistry in their first year together. Can they surprise the basketball world a second straight season and make some noise in the playoffs? We’re about to find out.
Here’s some of the questions for the team this season with some predictions sprinkled in as well.
Can Victor Oladipo become an MVP candidate?
In the team’s offseason “mini-camp” in Miami, players came back reporting that Victor Oladipo looked like he was going to be even better than the year before. He was the player that guys pointed out as looking highly improved over the summer.
That’s saying something for the winner of the Most Improved Player award.
“I’m still hungry,” Oladipo said this past July. “I think I’m hungrier now than I was when I first got here. I want to be great. I’ve been saying that since I walked into his facility and started being a Pacer. I want to be one of the greatest to ever play this game. Whatever I got to do to do that, I’m going to try my best to try and achieve that and in the process of winning. That’s the goal.”
Indiana Pacers star guard Victor Oladipo wants to be in the Space Jam sequel.
“Yes, let’s start a campaign,” said Oladipo at media day when asked about his desire to be a Monstar in the LeBron James-led Space Jam sequel. “Let’s make this happen. I would be a crazy Monstar. I think that would be pretty dope.”
I think I should! I would make a great monstar! What y’all think? Should we start a campaign? https://t.co/cXvhqvrlg6
The Indiana Pacers greatest strength last season may have been their chemistry and to this point it looks like it’s only improved over the offseason.
“You know it when you see it,” Myles Turner said of the team’s chemistry after the first training camp practice. “You just feel it.”
Indiana hasn’t played a game yet and you can feel it already. Whether it’s the above picture from media day with most of the returning players laughing together or Bojan Bogdanovic giving Victor Oladipo a huge hug when he first saw him.
“We can beat anybody in the NBA. Don’t know how we stack up w/ them, but I just feel like we can beat anyone.” – @VicOladipo at #Pacers Media day.
Last season was the first year the majority of the team had been with the Pacers as they quickly grew a unique bond. With most of the core contributors returning from last year’s roster, Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard thinks those relationships will continue to grow.
In case this is your first time here, here’s the concept of This Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: I take an interesting picture from the history of the Indiana Pacers from ABA glory to the modern era and literally write 1,000 words (or more) about the photo.
We’ve covered the misery of Knicks fans against Reggie Miller, that game the Pacers played with only six active players, among other things. You can see all the past columns here.
Today, we talk about Lance Stephenson. Born Ready. The Lord of Hype. Lance make ’em dance.
Lance Stephenson, the Lord of Hype, the Born Ready, the Honorary Hoosier, the Jester of the House of Bankers: pic.twitter.com/UHEmYdyTwQ
Stephenson’s team option for the 2018-19 season was declined by the Indiana Pacers which will make him a free agent. The final year of his contract was for only $4.3 million, but Kevin Pritchard and the front office must have some kind of splash in mind this offseason and decided they needed to utilize that money to upgrade the roster.
While the team hasn’t completely ruled out bringing him back, that likely will only happen if the Pacers are unable to sign someone else that fills a role similar to his own. With so few teams having cap space this season, it’s hard to see the Pacers completely striking out. This very well could be the end of Stephenson in a Pacers uniform as rumors spread immediately after the Stephenson news broke that the Pacers are interested in Will Barton, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Smart.
Oladipo on Lance: "I Facetimed with him yesterday. He’s in good spirits. He’s a great human being. It was an honor and a privilege to play with him last year."
Whether any of those players will be a large enough upgrade over Stephenson to warrant the greater cost is a discussion for another time. Right now, we’re here to talk Lance. Because if this is truly the end, this is the conclusion of an unforgettable tale of a Brooklyn basketball prodigy that became a beloved Indiana legend.
This picture was chosen for the column over countless other incredible moments is because it shows the effect that Stephenson had on the Pacers faithful at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. It shows how much the city and state embraced him when he returned from his humbling nearly 3-year journey with five other NBA teams, seldom looking like the player he was before leaving.
“When I got the call, I almost cried,” Stephenson said when he first spoke to reporters after signing his contract to return to the Pacers organization. “I feel like Indiana is family.”
When Stephenson came back at the end of the 2016-17 season, he was a beacon of light in one of the darkest times in recent Pacers history as the Paul George situation loomed over the entire franchise. His first game back against the Toronto Raptors was probably the highlight of the season.
The Pacers were on the verge on missing the playoffs with a collective group that had no business not at least making the postseason. Behind an energetic boost from Lance that seemed to give the entire team some liveliness, the Pacers finished the season on a 5-game winning streak and made the playoffs.
The Pacers were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs, but the prodigal son had returned and looked like the Pacers second-best player in the series, almost exactly how Indiana remembered him: aggressive, fearless and flashy.
“Some teams, I’d only get three dribbles, or I’d have to stand in the corner,” Stephenson said this past season when talking about why he’s fit better with Indiana than other places. “They (Pacers staff) let me be myself. They don’t guard me, or tell me not to do stuff. If I play freely, if coaches let me play the game, you’ll see the talent in me.”
When Lance is allowed to be Lance, there is so much to enjoy. You can love him for the silly, slightly crazy parts of his game like the celebrations (air guitar, hip gyration, the bird, the fake heartattack, the shimmy), the headbutting of stanchions after big plays or the fact that searching his name in a GIF finder is a treasure trove of greatness.
All those things showed how much Lance loves the game of basketball. He loves the game with a passion that only can seem to be matched by people from Indiana. He approaches the game with a fierce intensity and a sense of child-like joy. Pure elation when things are going right and never giving up when they aren’t.
There’s nothing quite like experiencing a classic Lance moment in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse as he sizes up an opponent with dribble moves like he’s back in New York at Rucker Park. Every bounce of the ball pushes the crowd closer to a frenzy and when the play reaches its peak as Stephenson goes up for a layup or rises for a jump shot, the entire arena becomes a singular sentient being with the sole purpose of getting hype.
And the moves don’t always work. Sometimes Lance makes pump fakes with one-hand with no effect on the defender, sometimes he loses the ball on the dribble. But maybe that’s part of why the moments are so special when they do.
Now you’re probably asking yourself: well, what did Lance do after he got the ball? Did he at least make Cory look good?
When Stephenson plays, every pass is an opportunity to engage the crowd. No-look, behind-the-back attempts are as commonplace as a fundamentally sound chest or bounce pass. To this day, I’ve never seen a more impressive pass than one Stephenson made during his first tenure in Indiana: a behind-the-back, no-look, in the air pass to a wide open CJ Watson in the corner for a 3-pointer.
When Stephenson gets the crowd involved, it gives everyone else on the team that same adrenaline boost. That’s the Lance Effect. His energy off the bench this season was a huge part of the Pacers penchant for making comebacks. In the first large comeback of the season, it was Stephenson that sparked the effort in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons by grabbing rebounds on both ends and hitting big shots.
He played a huge part of the team’s comeback against the Nuggets later as well. This time it was his defensive effort making a difference.
This is everything Indiana loves about Lance Stephenson in a single picture.
But perhaps bigger than his clear passion for the game, his entertainment value and relentless effort, Indiana fans love Stephenson because he is fearless and won’t back down from anyone, especially when it comes to LeBron James.
“I fear no man,” Stephenson said after the Pacers won Game 6 in the first round against the Cavaliers this season. “You on the other team, I don’t care. I don’t care about you.”
Stephenson is well known for his knack of getting under LeBron’s skin. Something that very few, if any, other players can claim they’ve done. While Stephenson is over-matched in skill, strength and every other measurable category to the best player in the world, he has never backed down from challenge of James.
He blew in his ear. He tapped him across the face, grabbed his chest. He flopped at every opportunity. He’d attempt to provoke him. This past season he finally got James to respond and earned two technical calls against LeBron during the season. But he wasn’t just an irritant, Lance picked up his game in the playoffs as well.
In these battles against James, he perfectly symbolizes his team as the one that always gives the best all they can handle, even if they always seem to fall just short.
Stephenson almost made a jump ball one of the best plays in Pacers history when in the fourth quarter of Game 4, he first won a jump ball against James and then held the ball up like it was Simba in the Lion King. Later, in the closing seconds nearly won another one against Jeff Green that would have possibly given the Pacers one last chance to tie the game as you can see one ref call for a tie up and the other call for a foul at about the same time.
Whether or not Paul George stays in Oklahoma City, the Indiana Pacers already won the last summer’s blockbuster trade.
George could stay as a member of the Thunder as their GM Sam Presti felt “really encouraged” by his dialogue with him (doesn’t that sound familiar, Indiana?). Or, he could do what everyone expects and leave for the Lakers or some other team in free agency. We’ve already heard the rumblings that he’s “gone” as ESPN radio host Ryen Russillo said recently, but it doesn’t matter which way he ends up going. The Pacers are better off now than they would have been by keeping George, even a version of himself that wanted to stay.
No one is making jokes about the Pacers anymore (shout-out to the OKC Police Department, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, who has deleted a tweet from early in the season that included a video from The Jump where she said it was ludicrous to say the Pacers were better off without George, and countless others. The Pacers silenced the critics and proved everyone wrong.
“If you don’t respect the Indiana Pacers now,” Victor Oladipo told reporters after the series against Cleveland, “then I have no respect for you.”
Pacers' Victor Oladipo: "If y'all don't respect the Indiana Pacers now, I have no respect for you. That's just how I feel. Nobody thought we would be here, no one, not one person but us in the locker room. … I feel like we've earned our respect from everyone." pic.twitter.com/427069lfdI
Oladipo’s first season in Indiana was better than George’s final one (both by individual and team success) and he’s two years younger. Oladipo will likely make an All-NBA team and an All-Defensive team this season and the city of Indianapolis has embraced him more than it ever did George.
What has been the most exciting and fulfilling Pacers’ season in years has finally come to an end. What started with confusion, anger, and frustration towards a former player ended with young stars looking towards the future. Somehow losing the franchise’s arguably most talented player in history was a blessing in disguise.
A group primarily made of players who had been given up on or looked over their entire careers, just took one of the greatest players of all-time to the brink of elimination. But more than that, this group brought something back to the people of Indiana that had seemingly escaped this basketball-frenzy state. A sense of “togetherness” that captured the attention of Hoosiers from Elkhart to Evansville. A togetherness that is rare as in professional sports as the caliber of player that eliminated the Pacers in the first round.
What is this togetherness that has echoed the Pacers locker room since late last summer? It’s indescribable, but Hoosiers can sense it from a mile away. It’s a “we above me” mindset, it’s putting the team first and letting individual accolades come as they may. It’s about striving for something that seems out of reach, too good to be true, and not letting the challenge overtake the journey. It’s Victor Oladipo talking about this franchise as if it’s part of his immediate family. It’s Myles Turner’s resilience when the critics (me included) hounded him about his inconsistency. It’s the resolve of the entire team that seemed to always comeback from a double-digit deficit and at minimum make the game interesting. It’s Lance Stephenson’s… well I don’t know, but Lance was Born Ready and born to play basketball in Indiana. He loves the game like only a Hoosier can. It’s the moment when seemingly all 15 Pacer players rushed to help pick up Cory Joseph after driving to the hoop. Actually, let me correct that, it’s when Pacers fans across the state saw that moment and recognized it from memories past.
Maybe you recognized it from playing pick-up at your local park during a hot summer day in the Hoosier state. Maybe you recognized it from an Indiana high school sectional final during a brisk February night. Maybe you recognized it from your child’s YMCA league. But wherever you recognized it from, you knew one thing to be true, it was Indiana through and through.
It took Victor Oladipo 16 minutes after the game ended to start thinking about next season and to text his trainer.
Close to a year later, no one is cracking jokes. The Pacers demanded everyone’s respect in their round one playoff series, they demanded your attention. Not because of their star power or their flashiness, but because of their togetherness. Their abilities and potential as a unit. The energy that connected Pacers fans with an energy and passion that had been dormant for too long. A rejuvenated spirit that only basketball can seem to bring to the state of Indiana. A sense of togetherness that goes beyond Oladipo and Turner, that moves through the young kids watching on TV or listening on the radio, that brings chills and goosebumps to those in the seats of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Yes, this Indiana team has started a new era of Pacers basketball, but more importantly, this group has brought basketball back to where it needs to be: front and center in the hearts and minds of Hoosiers everywhere.
Together, they have put the NBA on notice.
The Indiana Pacers are back, and so is basketball in Indiana.
A revealing Nate McMillan postgame:
"We created a culture with our organization that we will continue to build.
“We want guys who are going to come in and play for the name on the front of that jersey. It’s not about the name on the back, it’s about the Indiana Pacers." pic.twitter.com/2A416bNLn0
The Indiana Pacers were supposed to win 30 games this year. Every media outlet said so. Even Kevin Pritchard, the person who built this roster, admitted that their expectations were similarly low on the televised broadcast of Game 1 in this series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kevin Pritchard says no one in the front office said they would get to even 40 wins this season when the owner asked.
They shocked everybody. Including their own organization.
They’ve been shocking everyone since the beginning of the season. Can they do it one more time in a road Game 7 against the best player in the world in LeBron James?
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Victor Oladipo of the deciding game after the Pacers blowout win in Game 6. “There’s nothing wrong with a little challenge. Obviously, it’s a big challenge ahead but we’re looking forward to the game.”
Oladipo has relished the challenges all season and has done it with impressive positivity. He’s become a franchise cornerstone, making his first All-Star team and setting career highs in basically every meaningful statistic, while claiming Indianapolis as his city and the fanbase has happily enjoyed the ride and embraced him completely.
The Indiana Pacers have put pride in their resiliency since the beginning of the season.
They’ve set an NBA record for most comebacks from down 15+ points in a season but can they comeback from a 3-2 deficit against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers after a heartbreaking Game 5 loss?
They have reasons to be encouraged. The Cavaliers have won their three games so far by a combined 9 points. The Pacers have still outscored Cleveland over the entire series by 11.
Indiana has stayed remarkably close in these last two contests despite James lighting the Pacers defense on fire while their own best player Victor Oladipo has built an entire neighborhood out of the bricks he’s shot up at the rim.
Maybe all it adds up to a bunch of what ifs if the Pacers end up losing the series, but right now it’s a sign that the Pacers aren’t going to go down easily.
“The series ain’t over,” Oladipo said last night. “You got to win four games the series to be over, right?”
I wrote about how bad stuff happens to the Pacers in close playoff games when LeBron has the ball in his hands with time expiring, and vented my frustration with their self-sabotaging tendencies despite his greatness. https://t.co/3AgB5ro1j3
They’ve never given in all season. No reason to think they will now with this surprisingly fun season on the line.
“We do a good job with our backs against the wall,” said Darren Collison after today’s practice.
This group of Pacers have never been in this situation before in the playoffs together, however.
Oladipo has never been the focus of the defense to this extent and his numbers for points and shooting percentage have steadily decreased since his Game 1 playoff introduction leading to his 2-for-15 night in Game 5.
“I ain’t never gonna stop shooting,” Oladipo said earlier this year when a reporter asked about a shooting slump.
His confidence and positivity have always reigned supreme, but the Pacers need their star to be a star (or at least shooting somewhat near his averages) to have a shot at winning the last two games.
Domas Sabonis, in his first real postseason experience, struggled in his first three games mightily but has led the Pacers in scoring the past two games as he’s taken advantage of the 4-on-3 situations that doubling Oladipo has given him.
Myles Turner has been consistent throughout the series with his shooting and kept the Pacers close in Games 2 and 4 but has not been nearly as adept as Sabonis in the past two games at knowing how to slip screens and take advantage of those situations. Too often he hasn’t been ready for the defense on the catch out of the Oladipo trap (though many of Victor’s passes out of these traps have been with little zip and slightly off target) and if the Cavs take away his shot, he hasn’t been able to make the right pass often enough.
I wrote about the center rotation and the reasons McMillan may go with more Sabonis than Turner in Game 6: https://t.co/Z35dgIgA2Y
Much like in the regular season, the Pacers offense looks better with Sabonis, but the defense is superior with Turner. Turner is the Pacers only rim protector and he was a huge reason the Pacers got off to an early 10-point lead in the first quarter in Game 5 (Pacers were +8 in his minutes in the first quarter). How Nate McMillan balances his two young promising bigs minutes will be key to potential success in Game 6 and perhaps beyond.
While McMillan received some love for Coach of the Year, his performance this series has been uneven. The end of game five ended with the Pacers having one timeout and a foul to give on the table, which left him “disappointed” in himself.
The Pacers were slow to adjust to the Cavaliers trapping in the series and still look unsure of what to do far too often like in the third quarter of Game 5 as the Cavaliers stormed back. McMillan was upset by hero ball in the fourth game but the Pacers late-game offense has been unimaginative all year, simply letting Oladipo do superstar stuff. The Pacers haven’t been able to rely on that this series down the stretch and at times the Pacers have looked lost down the stretch of games.
He’s played some nearly all-bench lineups at times while LeBron was on the court, which is just asking for the Cavs to make a run. These last games of the series will be the true test for McMillan and his stuff. If he’s a true coach of the year candidate, it should show in the team’s adjustments.
The Pacers feel like they’ve been beating themselves during their losses and that may be true, especially with the amount of unforced turnovers. They’ve yet to play at their best for all 48 minutes.
The Indiana Pacers are like the fictional African nation of Wakanda from Black Panther. Everyone else in the world thinks they are one thing, just a place you don’t need to worry about, live practice for a first-round contender, but now they’re shocking the basketball world with revelations of their elite technology and weapons that give them a chance against anyone as they go into the fourth game of the series with a 2-1 lead over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Indiana has been staying in obscurity all season, lurking in the shadows, appearing only once on national television.
Except the Pacers have been showing this all year. They weren’t trying to keep this a secret like Wakanda. They beat Cleveland three times this season. They swept the Golden State Warriors. It’s just no one was paying attention or perhaps not taking them seriously enough as a threat to care.
The Indiana Pacers have a chance to finish with 49 wins tomorrow night. It’s hard to find any outlet that predicted they win more than 35 games and no one was picking them to make the playoffs let alone finish the regular season as a top-5 seed.
It’s no coincidence that the best ways to describe the season and the team are all with positive adjectives:
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.
You might be surprised at Victor Oladipo’s performance this year, but he isn’t.
He expected to be this good.
“Y’all might be surprised,” Oladipo told reporters after his 47-point night against the Denver Nuggets earlier this season. “I put in the work. I work every day. I have no limit to how hard I work. I’m trying to be great. There’s no in-between and I can’t settle for anything less.”
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 work.
The Pacers are losing, and in this losing streak, I wanted to refocus on a collective team trait that gives me hope: work ethic. Warning: In the few words below, you will not find statistics. Instead, you will see what I think about when first quarter deficits grow, the team is lost on both ends of the floor, and I learn a certain player’s knee is still sore.
Four anecdotes from this season that give me hope:
It’s early in Kevin Pritchard’s tenure as the President of Basketball Operations for the Indiana Pacers, but things couldn’t have gone much better over his first seven months considering the hand he was dealt shortly after he took over for Larry Bird.
In the summer, it didn’t look like it was going well to most outside the Pacers organization.
Originally, Pritchard’s plan was to build around Paul George and create a contender that would entice George to remain in Indiana. George seemed willing to let Pritchard try until about a week before the draft and the beginning of the off-season when he had a change of heart and told the Pacers organization that he would not re-sign with the team.
“We had multiple conversations, we talked about players we wanted to add to this team, and it felt like we were in agreement on that,” Pritchard said after the draft. “Not that a player dictates that, but I wanted him to (give) some feedback. We had conversations about players and how we want to go forward. So, for me it was a shock.”
One week before the off-season and all of the Pacers plans were for naught. That gut punch made for a unenviable scenario for Indiana as they quickly turned their focus to creating a completely new plan.
“It couldn’t have come at a worse time for me,” Pritchard said after the draft. “Had we known this a while ago we could have been more prepared. And then the way it got out… we struggled with that.”
Pritchard was unable to find a deal to his liking during the draft and preached patience on waiting for the right deal to materialize even as George’s agent was making it clear to all potential teams that he wanted to be in Los Angeles. Pritchard found the deal he was looking for with Oklahoma City Thunder, but no one seemed to agree that he made the right call.
The return for Paul George of Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and no draft picks was laughed at and mocked without mercy by nearly all from police departments, fans, media, even other teams. (Myself included in the puzzled-over-Pritchard’s-decision camp to choose this deal and not one that included Gary Harris from Denver in a 3-team deal with Cleveland or waiting for Boston to know whether they would sign Gordon Hayward and trying to snag that juicy Nets pick that would only be in the late lottery if the season ended today.)
NBA exec on Paul George deal: "World's smartest salary dump by OKC."
But the deal that netted the Pacers two key pieces for their bright future is only one move that Pritchard made this off-season. He’s looked to have hit on just about every transaction to this point including signing Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic and trading for Cory Joseph.
In total five of the eight players that play the most minutes for the Pacers were added by Pritchard this off-season and another (Thaddeus Young) was widely looked at as someone they should have looked to trade away after the George news instead of keep around.
Instead of being a lottery-bound league bottom feeder that many expected coming into the season, the Pacers sit at 19-14, good for 4th in the Eastern Conference, and have been a much improved team from last year’s version.
Pacers ranks on December 23rd last season: Offense: 20th Defense: 18th Net Rtg: 17th
Ranks December 23rd this season: Offense: 6th Defense: 17th Net Rtg: 7th
Thaddeus Young says the @Pacers' outstanding chemistry has helped in propelling them to success: "We just love each other as brothers, and I think that's the biggest thing." The #Pacers and #Nets play tonight on FSI and FSGO. pic.twitter.com/cHZF1ot80U
““It’s chemistry,” said Lance Stephenson after the Nuggets game, “sticking together and believing in one another. We’re bringing it every night. … There’s no hate. You know what I mean? Some guys get mad about somebody doing good. This team wants their teammates to do good. I feel like that makes this team even better.”
Darren Collison was up late texting Tuesday morning. His wife wondered who was on the other end.
Pacers deficits at home in last 7 games: BKN – 19, BOS – 19, DET – 16, OKC – 11, DEN – 19, CLE – 6, CHI – 17. However, IND has overcome that deficit to take the lead in 6 of the 7. The only they didn't: vs. DET they cut deficit to 2. Are 3-3.
The only question so far for Pritchard is how his draft picks of TJ Leaf and Ike Anibogu will turn out, but neither player is even 20 years old yet and it’s too early to jump to any conclusions about them this early in their careers.
“We know that he can score the ball,” McMillan said about Leaf after practice. “We want to see him defend and continue to work on, certainly scoring, but really his first year is about just playing. There’s no pressure, no expectations, other than getting out there to play.”
A big difference between Bird and Pritchard’s style in recent off-seasons is the lack of long-term deals that Pritchard handed out.
Both guys spent most of the cap space that they had available nearly every year, but Bird’s long-term bets in consecutive years on the likes of Rodney Stuckey, Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson not only didn’t work out in the immediate sense but gave the Pacers less wiggle room in following off-seasons to improve the roster.
The Pacers will now still be paying Monta Ellis, who was waived in the off-season using the stretch provision, when the NBA All-Star game makes it long-awaited return to Indianapolis in 2021, and neither Ellis or Stuckey have even found a team willing to sign them at all since they were waived by the Pacers. They aren’t the only players from the 2016-17 roster that are now out of the NBA: Lavoy Allen, Kevin Seraphin, Rakeem Christmas, and Georges Niang.
Pritchard, however, kept the team’s future cap space open while going after overlooked veterans that would take short-term deals with partial guarantees in the final year of the contract.
Collison and Bogdanovic both are making about $10 million this season and at this point look likely to complete their 2-year deals next season with the team, but if they didn’t pan out Indiana could have cut the cord with little cost to their salary cap for next season as the second years had a very small portion of guaranteed money. These contracts also could be used as potential trade sweeteners for teams looking to shed salary to make room in FA for a max contract slot.
Right now, it doesn’t seem like these fail-safe options will be necessary, but Pritchard put the organization in good position either way.
The challenge will eventually become what to do with many of the team’s current players as their contracts end either this summer or the next, including Joseph, Collison, Bogdanovic, Young and Glenn Robinson III, but so far Pritchard has been the gift that keeps on giving for the Indiana Pacers.