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INDIANAPOLIS – Down one of the Pacers’ most important players, Saturday night didn’t have the makings of them doing something the franchise hasn’t seen in 35 years.
But they did.
A balanced effort—to the tune of 9 players in double-figures, which the franchise hasn’t had happen since February 1983—led the Pacers to a low-stress victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.
“We could be very effective if we continue to get contributions from everybody like that,” Victor Oladipo said after the 132-112 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“For the most part, we just have to keep getting better. If we do that and continue to keep growing, continue to keep playing with confidence through good days and bad days, then the sky is the limit for us.”
The Pacers returned to Indiana on Saturday night following losing their first game of the season, in Milwaukee on Friday.
Better ball handling on Saturday led to a huge offensive night for Indiana.
Without Domantas Sabonis (knee), the Pacers saw each member of their 9-man rotation finish the night in double-figures, while all of them shot at least 50 percent from the field.
Indiana and Brooklyn both hit 16 three pointers, but the Pacers did it on 13 fewer attempts, running away from the Nets in the final quarter.
Runs of 14-2 late in the second quarter and then 20-7 early in the fourth, led to a third straight game with zero pressure in the final few minutes.
Reserve big man Kyle O’Quinn, who took the minutes of the injured Sabonis, had 16 points, including 14 in the last quarter.
“This is what we brought (O’Quinn) here for to be the third center and keeping himself ready to play because there are nights where we are going to need him,” Nate McMillan said of the veteran free agent signing. “Domas was out and he stepped in ready to go and played a really, really good game for us.”
Three Pacers’ Takeaways:
–Leader Leads: Saturday night will be remembered for the impressive balance. But Victor Oladipo’s effort in the first half was why Indiana maintained at least a seven-point lead throughout the final two quarters. Oladipo finished the night with a game-high 25 points. His 18 in the first half helped Indiana gain a lead they would not lose. After a pair of steal-less games to start the season, the NBA’s theft champion from last year had 4 swipes on Saturday, and added 7 rebounds. With the Pacers having a lackluster performance in Milwaukee on Friday, Oladipo made sure that hangover would not lead to a loss on the first back-to-back of 2018.
–Protecting The Rock “We’ve got to clean that up,” was what Nate McMillan said about his team’s turnovers just before Saturday’s tip. The sloppy ball handling in the preseason trickled into the first two games of the regular season. They took care of it much better on Saturday night, committing only 11 turnovers (they had 20 and 17 turnovers, respectively, in their first two games). Indiana was one of the better teams in the NBA last season in taking care of the ball. Handling it better on Saturday allowed for them to easily eclipse 100 points.
–Life Without Sabonis: Just because he comes off the bench, doesn’t mean Domantas Sabonis isn’t one of the Pacers’ most important/best players. Life without Sabonis on Saturday night saw the Pacers’ second unit handle things well without their versatile/dependable big man. With Kyle O’Quinn (16 points and 8 rebounds) taking Sabonis’ minutes and Bojan Bogdanovic joining the bench group on the floor in the second quarter, the Pacers hung in there with that unit. Cory Joseph was key in the first half, with Doug McDermott sneaking his way into a couple of three pointers. In the fourth quarter, this same group saw the lead shrink to 7 before extending it to 13 with McDermott and Bogdanovic hitting a pair of three pointers. The margin continued to grow from there, as McMillan brought Oladipo in with the reserves. Sabonis does a lot for this team, so not seeing a big drop off from the second unit on Saturday was a great sign.
-Domantas Sabonis (right knee): Sabonis didn’t play on Saturday after his knee stiffened up following the loss to the Bucks. The third-year forward banged knees with Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo during Friday’s loss, but did finish the game. Nate McMillan said before Saturday’s game that Sabonis’ knee was “pretty painful” leading to him missing the Brooklyn game. It remains to be seen if Sabonis will travel on the team’s three-game road trip next week.
-T.J. Leaf (left ankle): Leaf did not do any basketball activity on Saturday. He’s missed both games since injuring his left ankle early in the season opener.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-@Timberwolves (Monday, 10/22)
-@Spurs (Wednesday, 10/24)
-@Cavaliers (Saturday, 10/27)
-Trailblazers (Monday, 10/29)