I’ll admit I’m a lot more optimistic than most of the people who write about sports in this town. On the whole, I guess I just tend to be a pretty optimistic person in general.
That being said, even I was not expecting this kind of a bounce-back from the Pacers.
Since dropping four straight following Victor Oladipo’s injury on Jan. 23, the Indiana Pacers have gone on a six-game winning streak, hopping back up to third place in the Eastern Conference standings. During this stretch, the team handed LeBron James the worst loss of his NBA career (crushing the Lakers by a 42-point margin), while also defeating some tough Eastern Conference foes like the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets.
Not surprisingly, the team has won the way they have all year—with defense and balanced scoring. During this most recent stretch players like Bojan Bogdonavic, Myles Turner, and Thad Young have stepped up like we hoped they would, taking care of business on both ends of the floor.
As a result, the Pacers are again leading the league in opponent points per game, holding teams to a stifling 102.8 PPG. Of course, this effort is spearheaded by Turner, who leads the NBA in blocks with an average of 2.75 per game.
Bogdonavic’s efforts were also recently honored, as he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. With this distinction, the Pacers became the only team in the NBA this season to have three different players win the award (Bogdonavic, Oladipo, and Young), further emphasizing their overall balance as a squad.
ENTER WESLEY MATTHEWS
To many Pacers followers, including myself, the signing of Wesley Matthews marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in this 2018-19 Pacers season. A starting caliber guard/forward that plays both sides of the ball, Matthews further solidifies this Indiana roster as it marches toward the finish line post-Oladipo injury.
“I think he’s the perfect fit for our team,” said Darren Collison following the Pacers’ 99-90 win over Charlotte. “He can do so many different things. He can guard the point guard, shooting guard, small forward, and switch onto fours every now and then. He’s a jack of all trades on the defensive end.”
While some players could have trouble joining a team mid-season, Wesley Matthews seems like he’s certainly a different story. At age 32, he is now the oldest member of the Indiana Pacers, meaning he has some veteran know-how.
“As someone who’s been around this league for a while now, he’ll integrate rather quickly,” said Turner following Monday’s game. “He’s gonna be big for us this season. I have no doubt in my mind.”
Having coached Matthews previously in Portland, head coach Nate McMillan thinks the new Pacers acquisition will be able to make an impact right away. “He defends the way we like to defend,” McMillan says. “And he has a good feel for the game.” Regardless of his effect, however, the team’s focus still remains the same.
“The focus has been not on what we don’t have but what we do have and moving forward,” McMillan says. “It was a terrible situation to lose Victor. But we lost him, and now we need to focus on how we move forward. That’s been the focus of these guys.”