Latest posts by Ben Stinar (see all)
- Stinar: An open letter to Thunder star Westbrook - April 24, 2019
- Source: Indiana guard Green to declare for NBA draft - April 15, 2019
- Interview: Pacers rookie Holiday knew turn would come - April 7, 2019
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers are the definition of a team. In the NBA that is somewhat of a lost art. Teams play together. They play a system.
Most teams rely on a couple of players to carry the load, and everyone else does the dirty work. Not the Pacers. They lost their face-of-the-franchise player, Victor Oladpio, and haven’t missed a beat. In front of a surprisingly enthusiastic crowd (they were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers) they won their fifth in a row, 105-90 on Saturday night.
Pacers coach Nate McMillan can go a legit 10-deep on this team. There is no weak link. The Pacers’ starting lineup consists of three of the league’s most underrated players. Bojan Bogdanovic averages nearly 17 points per game and shoots 43.3 percent from beyond the arc. Point guard Darren Collison and forward Thad Young have been journeymen-types — but Collison is averaging nearly six assists per game and Young is putting up around 13 points and six rebounds a game. And center Myles Turner continues to hold his own in the pivot.
The bench? McMillan can turn to big man and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Domantis Sabonis and swingman Tyreke Evans — who averages 16 points per game over his 10-year career. Also, point guard Cory Joseph is an NBA champion. There’s also three former first-round picks in Doug McDermott, T.J. Leaf and rookie Aaron Holliday.
Saturday’s game was never close. LeBron James left and it will take some time for Cleveland to clean up the mess. The Cavaliers have compiled a measly 11 wins — tied with the Phoenix Suns for the league’s second-worst record, ahead of only the New York Knicks. The only thing the Cavs had a chance of winning Saturday was the insanely large 14.5-point spread they were given by the oddsmakers. They lost that, too.
As for Indiana, it’s obviously unfortunate what happened to Oladipo, but this team may end up going as far as it would have with him. The Eastern Conference is top-heavy right now, and if the Pacers hold onto the third seed, they would likely score themselves a first-round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets , Charlotte Hornets or Miami Heat.
If things keep going this way, the Pacers wouldn’t have too much of a problem. Teams in the truest sense rarely do.