2018 NBA Playoff Preview: Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers came into this year with lottery team expectations, they finished fifth in the Eastern conference with 48 wins. It’s been a season where Victor Oladipo elevated his game to All-star caliber. Pacers had a talent for the unexpected this season, when trailing by 15 or more points the Pacers came back to win 8 times this year. Not to mention Darren Collison finished number one in three point percentage at 46.8%. Nate McMillan in his second year in Indiana has turned the Pacers into a collective team unit.
Biggest Strength: Protecting the basketball
Turnovers are bad, spoiler alert. The Pacers ranked fifth in turnovers with 13.3 surrendered a game. I’ve always been big on taking care of the basketball, with a team like the Pacers who don’t have an overpowering offense, not giving the opponent extra possessions is crucial.
Biggest Weakness: Creating shots
As great as Victor Oladipo has been, the Pacers lack players who can create their own offense, not to mention they rank in the bottom five for assists as a team. The Pacers offense works at it’s best when they can create steals and get in transition and run. If the Pacers have to constantly work in the half-court they could struggle heavily.
Team’s X-Factor - Bench unit
When it comes to the playoffs often times we see rotations shrink. The Pacers likely will shrink theirs slightly, however, the Cavs are rather deep and the Pacers bench at times this year has lacked much scoring punch. Domas Sabonis has been the best role player for certain with Cory Joseph being extremely streaky yet stout on defense. Lance Stephenson remains a chaotic jack of all trades, in a series like this the bench unit needs these three guys in particular to elevate their games to give relief to guys such as Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner
Player to Watch: Myles Turner
Myles Turner didn’t take a leap this year like many expected, though injuries and the emergence of Domas Sabonis it was a steady year of growth. Turner is one of the best rim protectors in the league, finishing in the top five for blocks per game with 1.8. Offensively he remains a bit of a roller coaster, however, he will be seeing the likes of Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. throughout the series. None of which are great interior defenders, which has been an issue for the Cavaliers all year long. If Myles turner can stay out of foul trouble he could be a crucial force within the Pacers offense.
Estimated Playoff Run: First round elimination
Although I’m rooting for a playoff series victory a first round exit seems more likely. LeBron James has never been eliminated in the first round of a playoff series in his career, despite team struggles LeBron James has continued MVP level of play in his 15th season. The Pacers will need to create turnovers and be effective offensively to match this juggernaut. I believe they will match several punches thrown and it will be back and forth due to the Cavaliers horrid defense. It’s simply not time to name anyone besides LeBron James, “King of the East”.