It can be easy to overreact after a string of close losses. If you’re looking for a column to feed your overreactive opinions, however, The Home Dipo is not for you.
Before we take a closer look at the Pacers recent stretch of games, let’s step back and examine where the team stands in the NBA just three weeks into the season.
Currently, Indiana holds a record of 7-5, which narrowly puts them at fifth place in the Eastern Conference (where they finished last year). Their five losses have all been to playoff teams from last season, and only one of those (at Minnesota) will likely look bad when the early-season smoke clears.
The Pacers currently have an offensive rating of 109.5 (15th of 30) and a defensive rating of 105.9 (5th of 30). In comparison, the 2017-18 Pacers finished the season with an offensive rating of 109.5 (11th of 30) and a defensive rating of 108.1 (13th of 30).
I throw all of these stats at you to prove a simple point. So far this season, the Pacers have started out playing about as well as they did all of last year.
And while we’d certainly like to see an improvement, there are still 70 more games left (I repeat, there are 70 games to go). I have a hard time believing this team won’t continue to make adjustments as the season unfolds, especially considering the tireless leader they have in Victor Oladipo.
When I last left you, the Pacers stood at 4-3, following a 10-point loss at home to Portland. The team followed that up with a three-game winning streak of last-minute victories. This stretch began at Madison Square Garden, where the Pacers defeated the Knicks by a score of 107-101. Domantas Sabonis was the hero in this night, racking up 30 points and 9 rebounds off the bench. More impressively, Sabonis was a perfect 12-for-12 from the field, failing to miss a shot the entire game.
The blue and gold then traveled to Chicago for a matchup with the struggling Chicago Bulls. After trailing by as many as 18 points, the Pacers rallied, beating Chicago late thanks to a clutch bucket from Darren Collison. In addition to Oladipo’s 25 points and 14 rebounds, Myles Turner added 18 points and 6 blocks in the win.
The team then followed this up with another clutch win at home, defeating Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics by a score of 102-101. An exhilarating game from start to finish, the Pacers win against Boston was sealed when Oladipo hit a clutch 3-pointer late to put Indiana up 1 with just seconds to go.
“When it’s time to win, nothing else matters,” said Oladipo after the Reggie Miller-esque moment.”You gotta forget about the rest of the game and just go out and play.”
He continued, “We’re just a resilient group, and it’s an amazing group. I’m just glad I’m a part of it.”
Following this storybook finish, the Pacers lost a pair of hard-fought games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. On Monday, Houston came to town, narrowly defeating Indiana by a score of 98-94. Oladipo and 2018 NBA MVP James Harden went neck-and-neck the entire game, both finishing with 28 points. After shooting just 20-of-30 from the free-throw line, Collison missed one-of-two free throws late in the game, which ultimately sealed the deal.
Indiana lost their second game in a row at home on Wednesday, falling to the Philadelphia 76ers by a score of 100-94. Despite a 36-point game from Oladipo, the team was unable to find its groove throughout, as starters Collison, Turner, and Thaddeus Young all played poorly.
“I don’t want to say it was just one guy tonight [who caused the loss],” said McMillan after the game. “We shot 39%. When we’re getting matchups, we’re not taking advantage of them.”
While the team struggled offensively on Wednesday, they also have proven their overall balanced scoring potential in games against Memphis, San Antonio, and more. All in all, it would seem the Pacers just need to gel more in order to find consistency. I’m fully aware that some out there are pleading for lineup changes already, but most of these same people weren’t saying anything of the sort less than a week ago.
Stay patient my friends. There’s a lot of season left. 70 games in fact.