INDIANAPOLIS – The Pacers still have not lost back-to-back games in the Orlando bubble.
Wednesday’s victory over the Rockets continued that and also clinched Indiana facing Miami in Round 1 of the Playoffs.
Both the Pacers and Rockets were missing key guys on Wednesday, as Indiana watched Houston chucked 57 three-pointers, but make just 28 percent of those shots.
The Pacers were very balanced in the scoring department, seeing their bench provide key contributions from several players.
Myles Turner and Justin Holiday led the Pacers with 18 points. Victor Oladipo had 17 points on 7-of-26 shooting.
T.J. Warren (sore right foot) and Malcolm Brogdon (neck) both sat out Wednesday’s game against Houston. The Rockets rested Russell Westbrook on Wednesday.
Holiday (5-of-8 shooting, 3-of-6 from behind the arc) had a much-needed efficient night from the floor as he tries to regain form from earlier in the season. Doug McDermott also knocked home all 3 of his attempts from three-point range.
Trying to find a spot in the playoff rotation, Edmond Sumner was another bright spot off the bench with 17 points.
James Harden led the Rockets with 45 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists. Indy native Eric Gordon returned to action for the Rockets and scored 13 points.
Wednesday’s victory means the Pacers will either be the No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the playoffs and will play the Heat in Round 1. The winner of the Pacers/Heat matchup on Friday will be the No. 4 seed.
Three Things Learned
-Victor Oladipo Showing More Signs: We continue to see some positive signs from Victor Oladipo. Besides Wednesday, he’s shot the ball pretty well in Orlando and has flashed more and more moments, and willingness, off the dribble. We saw him try and attempt a dunk over Houston’s Robert Covington at the end of the first half in a move he certainly would not have tried had he lacked confidence. It’s definitely not all perfect with turnovers and assertiveness at critical moments left wanting more. Still, this is the best, and most consistent, we’ve seen from Oladipo since his return. He’s still not at that All-NBA/All-Star level, but there are moments in which Oladipo has looked like a capable leading guy. Physically, Oladipo looks and acts pretty normal. Seeing him be able to transition through different gears, gather himself and finish plays will be the next step in his progression.
-Another Offensive Option: Building off the point above, no T.J. Warren (and Malcolm Brogdon) on Tuesday saw the Pacers play without their top scorer for the first time in Orlando. Outside of Warren, the Pacers have lacked another consistent offensive option. Sure, there’s been moments from Oladipo, Aaron Holiday, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner, but not the reliability that you would like. Without Domantas Sabonis—Nate McMillan said on Wednesday there’s no Orlando return date on the horizon for Sabonis—and with the bench struggling to find its identity with different combinations nearly every night, the Pacers are left searching for support for Warren. It would do wonders for the Pacers come playoff time if they can find another go-to option alongside Buckets. Oladipo has shot it fairly well, and is starting to get to the line more, so his emergence would be ideal.
-McMillan Gets Contract Extension: Wednesday’s major news wasn’t the result of Indiana and Houston. It was Nate McMillan’s contract extension through the 2021-22 season. Malcolm Brogdon was a fan of the move saying, ‘We need one healthly year to prove how good we can be.’ For both McMillan and the Pacers, they will try to end their respective playoff series droughts (5 years for the Pacers, 11 seasons for the head coach). One area where McMillan should be commended is how the Pacers have overachieved in the regular season. Despite the Paul George saga, Victor Oladipo’s awful injury and continued roster turnover, McMillan’s teams have had 4 winning seasons and made the playoffs in all 4 years as head coach. The next step? Winning a playoff series.
Pacers Regular Season Re-Start Schedule
-Heat, 8/14 (Friday), 4:00 PM
Current Eastern Conference Standings
1. Milwaukee (56-16)
2. Toronto (51-19), 4.0 games back
3. Boston (48-23), 7.5 games back
4. Miami (44-28), 12.0 games back
5. Indiana (44-28), 12.0 games back
6. Philadelphia (42-30), 14.0 games back
7. Brooklyn (35-36), 20.5 games back
8. Orlando (32-40), 24.0 games back