Photo Credit: CLNS Media
Another NBA Playoffs, another year where no one is giving the Pacers a chance. The Celtics are currently -450 to win the series, and I haven’t seen a single “expert” pick the Pacers to win more than two games. This is business as usual for Pacers fans, we have been doubted for decades, but we Hoosier folk only care about what happens on the court. Just last year the Pacers took the Cavs (the eventual Eastern Conference Champs) to seven games, and if Lebron had a little less late-game magic (or a little less love from the refs) the Pacers would’ve won that series. Now the Pacers go up against the Celtics who were the pre-season favorite to win the East, but have had a very rocky season. They’re going to be without Marcus Smart, and it should be interesting seeing Indiana natives Brad Stevens and Gordon Hayward competing as the enemy in their hometown. However, the major question is how will the Pacers fare in the playoffs without their star Victor Oladipo?
When Oladipo went down with a brutal knee injury in January it felt like all hope was lost. However, since then the Pacers have been able to maintain their spot in the top five in the East and look to be playing quality basketball. Many players have stepped up in Oladipo’s absence, and the coaching from Nate McMillan has been outstanding. Here are a few reasons that people should be giving the Pacers a chance in this series.
1. Nate McMillan: Most underrated and a top three coach in the NBA
What Coach McMillan has done with the Pacers in his tenure as head coach is nothing short of incredible. When Paul George was traded for Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, everyone wrote us off. We had a roster that, on paper, looked like they were sure to win less than 40 games. But despite the odds, the Pacers have won 48 games in back to back seasons, with many of those wins coming without the star power of Victor Oladipo. There is no one who deserves more credit for this than Nate. His ability to get the team to play tough defense, play smart, and believe in this team is amazing. I believe Nate McMillan is a top three coach in the NBA, and the better coach in this series (which is incredible considering the hype that Brad Stevens has received in recent years). If the Pacers are going to win this series, McMillan is going to play a huge role in doing so.
2. Bojan Bogdanovich: Most underrated and possibly most improved player in the NBA
No one has stepped up more than Bojan to fill the void that came with losing Oladipo. Bogdanovich is averaging 18 points per game on 58% field goal shooting and 43% from the three point line. He also guards the opposing teams best player almost on a nightly basis. The lack of respect that Bojan gets in the NBA world is a real shame, but Indiana fans know what this man has done for the team. He is a candidate to win Most Improved Player this season, and I believe so much in Bojan that it would not shock me if he ends up being the leading scorer in this series.
3. Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner: Possible sixth man of the year and defensive player of the year
The Pacers sneakily have one of the best trios of bigs in the NBA in Turner, Sabonis, and Thad Young. No matter which pair of these three is in the game at any time, the Pacers always will have a strong frontcourt. Sabonis is averaging 14.1 ppg and 9.3 rpg off the bench. He also averages three assists a game and is an extremely talented facilitator for a big man. Alongside him is Myles Turner who is the NBA blocks leader by a landslide with 2.69 per game. Turner is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year this season, and in my opinion, is the best rim protector in the league right now. I respect Al “Buckets” Horford’s game, but he’s going to have his hands full this series against Turner. These two alongside the veteran leadership of Thad Young will be a huge factor in this series.
People who don’t follow the Pacers closely probably don’t realize some of these things. They look at our roster and have only heard of a couple of these players and immediately write us off, but in Indiana, we know basketball. The Pacers not only have a chance in this series, but I’m picking them to win it in seven games with a stunning win in the Boston Garden in game seven.