Bruising Booker playing big part in Pacers’ success

Trevor Booker has made a strong contribution to the success of the surging Indiana Pacers.

Even with Domantas Sabonis sidelined of late, the Indiana Pacers have hung tough in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

While Sabonis has missed six of the last seven games for the Pacers (44-31) because of an ankle injury, Indiana stands fifth in the East, but only a game behind third-place Cleveland (45-30) and a half-game back of fourth-place Philadelphia (44-40).

One of the reasons Indiana has continues its solid play, winning three consecutive games and seven of its last 10, has been the play of Trevor Booker.

Brought in to play behind Thaddeus Young at power forward March 3 after being released by Philadelphia, Booker has not missed a beat while also playing behind starting center Myles Turner.

“He brings a physicality to the floor,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told Pacers.com. “With these injuries and teams playing smaller fives, we’ve had to play him there some, and he’s done a good job for us. It allows us to make adjustments. He’s a power forward, but he plays bigger than that.”

Though the 6-foot-8 Booker is playing only about 16 minutes per game on the season, his minutes, along with his numbers, have been on the rise.

In the last 10 games, Booker is averaging 17.5 minutes, 5.2 points, and 5.0 rebounds, with more assists (10) than turnovers (7).

“He’s a hard-nosed guy who’s going to go out and rebound the basketball,” Young said. “He has the ability to score on the block. To make a few jumpers here and there — not consistently, but he gives us the energy and the poise and the passion that we need. When he’s stepping out there with that second unit he does a really good job of carving out space and putting guys in the right place.”

Come playoff time, the bruising Booker will be an even bigger asset as games slow down and become more physical.

It’s a battle in that paint,” McMillan said. “You need those guys who will bring that style of basketball to the floor.”