Indiana Pacers continue to exceed season expectations

The Indiana Pacers are continuing to exceed the season expectations of a Victor Oladipo-less team.

The Indiana Pacers have finally learned how to play and win games with the guys they have on the court. The Pacers are now 17-9 on the season and have built a great foundation and team chemistry for the return of their All-Star Victor Oladipo. How are the Indiana Pacers continuing to exceed expectations this season?

Considering the loss of Oladipo, nobody wanted to give the Pacers a chance this season. After starting the season with even more injuries, coach Nate McMillan has finally found the proper rotational units to run with. In doing so, the coaching decisions have become more confident and beneficial for the Pacers during these most recent games.

McMillan likes the chemistry, telling Mark Montieth of NBA.com he doesn’t expect having more depth will hurt the club at all.

“It works better when you have a set rotation; it works better for me and them. But with so many guys, we have to look at approaching the game where we take advantage of match ups we want to create. The bottom line is we’re going to try to put a group out there who can give us the best chance to win.

“We’re still working on a rotation off the bench, but I think we can take advantage of that if we commit to (the philosophy of) whoever’s out there, you support them.”

The addition of Malcolm Brogdon changes the landscape of the Indiana Pacers with or without Oladipo. Brogdon is averaging a career-high 19.5 points and 7.5 assists per game this season. On Wednesday, Brogdon led the Pacers with 29 points and eight assists while also going 15-for-15 from the free throw line in a big win over the Boston Celtics.

He kept it going Friday in Atlanta, with 19 points and 12 assists, while also grabbing eight rebounds.

With Oladipo still out with injury and no timetable to return, Brogdon has definitely become the other leader of this Pacers team. He said this about his team after their comeback win against the Celtics.

“One of our problems all season has been closing out these games against elite teams. Tonight we were able to do that so it will definitely help our confidence.”

The way the Indiana Pacers have utilized the double-big lineup of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner has worked well in their favor this season. It’s difficult for opposing teams to defend two guys who are both 6-foot-11 and can handle the ball.

Teams simply have no answer to stop Sabonis and his usual double-double performance. Sabonis has reached a double-double in 21 of 24 games this season and is averaging a double-double for the season with 18.0 points and 13.5 rebounds per game.

Against the Celtics, the Pacers’ bench provided 47 points in the game to the Celtics’ 19. Aaron Holiday and older brother Justin Holiday have improved every game this season and have been impressive in doing so. As of recently, the brothers have given life to the depleted bench of the Pacers.

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The Holiday brothers combined for 25 points against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night

What’s even more impressive about the Pacers’ victory over the Celtics is Kemba Walker had a 44-point outing (15 points in first quarter) and the Pacers still finished on top. Walker finished the game with 44 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals.

Aaron Holiday talked about the difficulties in defending a player such as Walker.

“He’s obviously one of the great players in the league and once he gets downhill, it’s tough to stop him. I just tried to fight over the screens and hoped my bigs could help me at the rim.”

The ability to get to the free throw line nearing the end of a game is becoming more important in today’s NBA. The Pacers attempted 36 free throws (30-of-36) while limiting the Celtics to just 22 (17-for-22).

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Similar to what Brogdon said, if the Pacers can continue to get themselves to the free throw line, they should be able to close out and finish games stronger than they have shown this season.

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