• Cameron Tabatabaie

2019 Playoff Preview: Indiana Pacers


IndyStar

Season Recap

The Indiana Pacers really showed their might this season. The team’s lone star, Victor Oladipo, appeared in just 36 games before being side-lined with a gruesome leg injury. Instead of buckling, the team excelled behind strong coaching and smart team-building.

Indiana specifically hung its hat on defense, while some unlikely heroes emerged in the process. Resident Pacers expert Kory Waldron described the mood in the Hoosier State as “optimistic.”

It’s a hard road ahead for the Pacers this postseason. But not an impossible one.

Biggest Strength

The Pacers won’t be an easy out in the playoffs. The team is too well-coached, too tenacious. This is especially true on defense.

Indiana finished the season with the 3rd best defensive rating. More importantly, Myles Turner and Co. allowed the 4th fewest points in the paint this year. If you want to score against the Pacers, you’re going to have to work. Here’s the shot chart for Indy’s opponents this season for context:

Rival clubs really do have a tough time down low against the Pacers. Turner and Thad Young deserve immense credit for this. Both have had monster seasons, and both will make life difficult at the rim.

Biggest Weakness

While we’re on the subject of defense, it’s worth noting that Indiana doesn’t fare too well in stopping the fast-break. The Pacers also allow opponents to shoot and make threes at a not-so-great clip.

It’s Indy’s offense, however, that will be its biggest issue. There’s no bonafide scoring threat on this team. And Pacers score an inefficient 70.8 percent of their points inside the three-point line, one of the highest marks in the league. Buckets must be earned.

To make matters worse, 17.6% of Pacers offense starts off of opponent turnovers. In the first-round, they face the Celtics, a team that is particularly good at taking care of the ball.

Team’s X-Factor

Where Indy might surprise some folks is with the underrated and unappreciated Bojan Bogdanović. Bogey is a lights out shooter who can just as easily put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.

He’s as efficient as they come in the NBA, and turned in 18.0 points per game over the course of the season. Down the stretch, Bogdanovic was especially great.

Unfortunately for the Pacers, Bogey dramatically underperformed against the Celtics this season. If he returns to form against Boston, it will be a dramatic swing for Indy.

Players to Watch

Domantas Sabonis has turned heads this season, and for all the right reasons. He’s a bonafide Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

Sabonis is especially quick and athletic, even for a stretch big. Like Bogdanovic, he’s a true inside-out threat. Both could be poised for a break-out postseason.

So why is Sabonis a player to watch, and not an X-factor? Simple; he plays with the sort of raw emotion that makes playoff basketball so electric. Win or lose, he’s going to be fun.

Estimated Playoff Run

The Pacers were either a darling or an irritant this season, depending on who you ask. Indiana simply refused to quit on the year, often punching beyond its weight class.

That said, this isn’t a true cinderella team, and the momentum of exceeding expectations doesn’t often translate in the NBA postseason. There is little chance the Pacers make it out of the first-round, even if they put up a valiant fight in the process.

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