The Indiana Pacers have not yet played a game with star player Victor Oladipo on the court this season.
As a matter of fact, the new-look blue and gold have only played 17 total games with the starting lineup they originally had slated going into the 2019-20 season, due to injuries suffered by Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and Myles Turner.
Nevertheless, Indiana stands firm in the playoff hunt with a record of 26-15. Having already defeated topnotch teams like the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz this season, the Pacers are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference, with only 2.5 games separating them and second- place Miami.
In typical Pacers’ fashion, the team hasn’t won with flash. Instead, Indiana has found success with a brand of unselfish team ball, best illustrated by the six total players they currently have averaging more than 10 points per game.
This style of play has been made possible by Pacers point guards Malcolm Brogdon and TJ McConnell, who both rank among league best in assists per 100 possessions. Pair this with a league best assist-to-turnover ratio, and it’s no wonder Indiana has found the hot hand more nights than not.
All in all, the Pacers’ unselfish recipe to success can be traced back to Coach Nate McMillan, who preaches team ball night in and night out.
“With all the injuries we’ve had, we’ve been able to put guys in with a next-man-up mentality and continue to win some games,” McMillan said following the Pacers’ Jan. 13 win over the Sixers. “I just believe if you play the game the right way and you play the game together and you’re playing hard, you’re going to give yourself a chance to win. We’ve been able to do that.”
At the end of the day, health would seem to be this Indiana team’s greatest hurdle. As Pacers sideline reporter Pat Boylan pointed out following the team’s Wednesday win over the Timberwolves, the Pacers are now 13-4 in games where all 5 (non-Oladipo) starters are healthy.
This said, Myles Turner believes the team has yet to reach its full potential.
“As a team, I still think we have some ways to go,” Turner said following the Pacers’ Jan. 13 victory over Philadelphia. “I mean, we haven’t had a healthy roster for the majority of the year. So once we get our actual roster…we have Vic coming back soon…that’s when we’re really going to be able to grade ourselves and get ourselves back into the way we want to play.”
Following their Jan. 17 home game versus the Timberwolves, the blue and gold will embark on a five-game road trip before returning home for a Jan. 29 matchup with the Chicago Bulls. As is now widespread knowledge, this Jan. 29 match will also mark Victor Oladipo’s first game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in over a year.
Having idly stood by and watched his team from the sidelines, Oladipo looks forward to bringing an added boost to an already scary Indiana squad.
“We have a really, really good team, and I feel like I can help us,” said Oladipo in a Jan. 8 press conference. “So I’m looking forward to the opportunity of joining this great group of guys and trying to do something special.”