Victor Oladipo. Myles Turner. Edmond Sumner. Domantas Sabonis. Jeremy Lamb. Goga Bitadze.
The six players above have all missed time due to some type of injury through the first three weeks of the 2019-2020 NBA campaign. Three of the players(Vic, Domas, and Myles) all play critical roles on this Pacers team. Sumner and Lamb have proven to be good role players and Bitadze is showing some flash as a rookie.
With all of these missing pieces, you’d expect Indy to be gasping for air just ten games in and it looked like that was going to happen after the first three games. A blown opening night lead loss to Detroit, a blowout loss in Cleveland, and another lost lead to Detroit had the Pacers staring at a big goose egg after the first five days of the season.
But now we look in the rear-view mirror and what do you know? Indiana has won 6 of their last 7 games. It started a game earlier than I expected in Brooklyn, the same night the blue and gold lost Turner.
Grant it, Indiana got blessed by Wilt Chamberlain and the basketball gods with the easiest schedule in the NBA through the first three weeks. That comes with a price, as everything does. Through the remainder of the season, according to tankathon, Indiana has the ninth toughest schedule, facing the likes of Boston three times, the Lakers and Clippers twice, Denver twice, and both Milwaukee and Philly four times. As tough as that schedule may look, Indiana could be getting it’s most valuable piece of ammunition back before then. Oladipo is ramping it up in practice now. All Indiana fans are just waiting to hear the magic words come out of Coach McMillan’s mouth; CLEARED FOR ALL BASKETBALL ACTIVITY.
What you love to see during this recent early season stretch is the production of the ‘other guys’ when Sabonis and Myles are out. TJ Warren, after struggling his first few games has dropped three games of 21 points or more. Aaron Holiday, who at first glance looked as if he’d lost his rotation spot after one game is seeing the ball go through the net and that means nothing but good things. Older brother Justin will get you some buckets when needed. Lamb can light it up when he gets going, shown through his 17 per game average through five games. TJ McConnell has been more than what the Pacers were hoping for. Just to show you how good he’s been, McConnell has dished out 17 assists in his last two games with zero, yes ZERO turnovers. Doug McDermott looks reminiscent to the Creighton ‘McBuckets we remember, seeming unconscious as Pacers Radio Voice Mark Boyle put it last night in Orlando.
Lastly, I can’t go without talking about ‘Humble Moses’. Malcolm Brogdon has been PHENOMENAL. 21 points per, 5 boards, 9 assists, 46% from the field, and 98% from the charity stripe. All in the absence of 6 players. We didn’t see any shade of this Brogdon in Milwaukee, because he wasn’t needed in this fashion. That’s what happens when you have the likes of the 2019 league MVP, a sharpshooter in Middleton, and a good point guard in Bledsoe. Brogdon could be looked at as the Bucks fourth best option last year. Indiana has needed every bit of offense from Brogdon and more so far and that’s exactly what they got. I wouldn’t expect this to continue once the Pacers get their full militia back.
I look at 6-4 through three weeks and I am very happy if I’m a Pacers fan. Look at the horrible hand the dealer gave to Indiana right off the bat. Injuries to your top three guys and somehow, regardless of schedule, you’re not only above water, but you’re sailing. By Christmas, the people at NBA TV who said this wasn’t a playoff team will wish that television had a delete button, because this Indiana Pacers squad, fully loaded, is not only a lock for the postseason, I’d venture to say they have a good shot at the Eastern Conference crown.