Can Pacers Balanced Attack Make Noise in the Playoffs?
The Indianapolis Star
Despite being down more than 20 points midway through the second quarter, the Indiana Pacers were able scratch and claw their way back to a 126-111 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night. While taking down the Pelicans is no special feat this year, winning a game after starting slow and falling way behind is a strong sign of resiliency from a Pacers team playing without superstar Victor Oladipo.
Indianapolis was able to pull the win out behind a solid offensive effort from a majority of the Pacers who got meaningful minutes. New addition Wesley Matthews found his stride from behind the arc, hitting six three’s and putting up a game-high 24 points. Behind him were five more double-digit scores for Indy in Bojan Bogdanovic (20 points), Domantas Sabonis (18 points), Tyreke Evans (17 points), Thaddeus Young (16 points), and Darren Collison (10 points).
The Pacers struggled immediately after losing Oladipo, dropping four games in a row in his absence, but have since figured out a winning formula without him. Indianapolis has won eight out of their last nine games and are third in the Eastern Conference standings. Barring any disastrous end to their season, the Pacers will end up somewhere between the third and fifth seed in the conference playoffs.
While they will be without the services of their best player, what can we reasonably expect from the Pacers in the playoffs?
If the playoffs started today, the Pacers would take on the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets but there are a number of teams they could end up seeing in the first-round. The Nets are only a game and a half ahead of the Detroit Pistons, who are only a half-game in front of the Charlotte Hornets. Late-season pushes and collapses could result in several different teams facing the Pacers.
While winning in the playoffs is never easy, one thing the Pacers are head and shoulders better at than any of their potential first-round playoff competition is consistency. For what they lack in dominance they make up for in reliability on both offense and defense. Bogdanovic has been strong primary option in Oladipo’s absence, scoring 20.3 points per game on a .506/.406/.850 shooting split, but the scoring duties have really been by committee. Young, Sabonis, and Myles Turner have all put up their fair-share of points the past month, and Mathews arrival may just add another scoring option.
Indy might be in trouble when run in to teams with more star-power like the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, and the Philadelphia 76ers, but do not expect the Pacers strong and stable core to go down easy against anyone in the playoffs.