To the Victor go the spoils; Pacers indeed got a steal

Victor Oladipo of the Pacers passes around Jaylen Brown of the Celtics on Saturday night.

When the Indiana Pacers traded All-Star forward Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the summer of 2017, it was labeled by most as a steal… for the Thunder.

Turns out, though, it could indeed be labeled a steal… for the Pacers.

In the best game of the day/night Saturday, Oladipo sealed a 102-101 win by the Pacers against visiting Boston at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, rebounding a miss at the cup by Boston’s Kyrie Irving, bringing the ball up the floor, freezing Irving for a split second with a stutter-step dribble to create space and then didn’t flinch as Al Horford of the Celtics made a closeout attempt:

“I’m going for the win,” Oladipo, who scored 10 of his game-high 24 in the fourth quarter, told reporters afterward. “Not because I’m saying I have to every time, but you’ve got to give yourself the confidence to do it and believe that you can do it. I’m not going to say every time we’re down two in a home game that I’m going to shoot a 3 but I’m just going to make the play that’s there.”

Indiana acquired Oladipo and versatile big man Domantas Sabonis in exchange for George, an All-Star, yes, but one headed into the walk year of his deal, July 6, 2017.

Oladipo had a breakout season, capped by a heroic performance in a first-round playoff series against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers that needed a Game 7 to decide.

Spurred by that loss, he came into this season with an even-greater drive and focus and it’s showing. Oladipo finished with 24 points, 12 boards, three dimes and three steals in 37 minutes, outplaying Irving (18 points, six rebounds, three assists in 27 minutes).

The second overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft by the Orlando Magic, Oladipo is averaging 22.5 points, a career-high 7.3 rebounds, matching a career-high set a year ago with 4.3 assists along with 1.7 steals in 33.4 minutes.

Sabonis is accounting for 13.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 22.7 minutes, shooting a blistering 67.1 percent from the field.

Meanwhile, George is averaging 22.6 points, 6.8 boards, 3.9 assists and 2.4 steals in 34.6 minutes for the Thunder, shooting 39.4 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from the 3-point line.

The Pacers are 7-3 and Oladipo, 26, and Sabonis, 22, are making a combined $23.7 million this season, $21 million for Oladipo and $2.7 million for Sabonis.

The Thunder are 4-4 and George, 28, is being paid $30.6 million in the first season of a four-year, maximum-salary deal signed July 6, with the 2021-22 season being a $37.9 player option.