When Victor Oladipo went down in late January with a ruptured quad tendon, it seemed like the Pacers would surely collapse. Since his injury, however, Indiana is 10-9, and they’re 17-13 overall without Oladipo this year. How have the Pacers continued to compete? Can they actually keep the third seed over the likes of the 76ers and Celtics?
The Pacers’ Continued Success
In their last 15 games, the Pacers rank second in Defensive Rating. Without Victor Oladipo, an All-NBA and All-Defensive talent, the Pacers are still downright elite on the defensive end of the floor. Much of their success can be attributed to Myles Turner, who frankly should be getting more consideration for DPOY. Turner leads the league in total blocks (169) and blocks per game (2.9). Furthermore, his ridiculous 9% block rate leads the league by 1.7%. Turner is also seventh in defensive win shares with 3.7. While he may not get much consideration against superstars like Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo or a proven defensive anchor like Rudy Gobert, he has a pretty great case for the award.
To complement Turner’s defense, Bojan Bogdanovic has stepped tremendously on the offensive end. In 19 games without Oladipo, Bogdanovic is putting up 21.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 42.1% from deep. Additionally, Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young and Domantas Sabonis have all been solid offensively.
Can The Pacers Hold the Third Seed?
Strength of Remaining Schedule
According to ESPN, the Pacers have the second hardest (29/30) schedule in the NBA, while Boston and Philly rank 22nd and 18th respectively. ESPN also has Indiana ranked 11th in the Relative Percent Index (RPI), while the 76ers and Celtics are 8th and 9th respectively. By these stats, it looks as though statistically, the Pacers should drop to the 5th seed below the 76ers and Celtics in the last 16 games this season.
To finish the season, the Pacers play a few strong teams like the Thunder (twice), Blazers, Nuggets (twice), Warriors and Celtics. They also have numerous games where they match up favorably against the opposition when they play the Knicks, Clippers, Magic, Pistons (twice), Nets and Hawks.
Comparatively, the strongest teams that the Celtics play are the Nuggets, 76ers, Spurs and most importantly, the Pacers twice. Besides the Celtics, the most difficult team that the 76ers will take on is the Bucks, however they also play the Hawks and Bulls twice apiece, as well as the Magic and Hornets.
In their last ten games, all three teams are 5-5, however, the Pacers have a one game lead over Philly and a 1.5 game lead over Boston. The Celtics are onthree-gameame winning streak, and while the Pacers and 76ers both lost their last games, they play tonight and one of those teams will pick up the win.
Of the three squads, Boston’s is arguably the most talented, however they also have significant internal strife, and it’s unclear whether Gordon Hayward is returning to form or not. Philadelphia easily has the strongest starting lineup, but their bench is objectively weak. The Pacers have the most balanced team, though they easily have the most difficult schedule.
Overall, despite their tough remaining schedule, the Pacers should pick up some difficult victories in their last sixteen games. With their easier schedules however, the 76ers and Celtics will have the chance to gel and roll into the playoffs with a winning mentality. As of right now, it looks like the 76ers and Celtics will catch the Pacers and Indiana will end with the fifth seed.
Stats courtesy of ESPN
Featured image courtesy of Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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