The return of Victor Oladipo made all the difference for the Indiana Pacers, running roughshod over the Chicago Bulls to snap their five game skid. The Pacers jumped ahead 28-19 in the first quarter and never looked back, leading by as many as 41 in a blowout affair.
The Pacers had struggled to score 90 points without Oladipo, but in his return, scored 101 through three quarters, sending the game into fourth quarter garbage time with 59.7% shooting through three. Indiana went 13-24 from three point range in that time frame, finishing with 15 on the night.
Oladipo got things started early and often for the Pacers, returning with 23 points on a stellar 9-11 shooting, all in 24 minutes. His return gave the Pacers not only the boost they needed, but the boost they apparently have to have. While the effort against Milwaukee was there, the ability simply was not. For Oladipo to give Indiana that and more, let’s talk more about the MVP.
Hot takes aside (or not?), Oladipo finished with not only 23 points, but nine assists, five steals, and four rebounds. Oladipo helped Indiana to a 23-7 advantage in points off turnovers, and a 17-9 win in fast break points. In the four games without Oladipo, the Pacers averaged 11.5 points off turnovers and just 6.8 fast break points.
Oladipo led the charge for the Pacers, but it became a total team effort en route to the kind of victory the Pacers were able to amass against the Bulls in getting back into the win column. Myles Turner came to life early for the Pacers, scoring all 13 of his points in the opening quarter, giving Indiana a big push to start the game.
Damien Wilkins slid into the starting lineup tonight with the absence of Bojan Bogdanovic, scoring nine points on 3-3 shooting from three point range, complete with friendly rolls.
The sequel, starring Damien Wilkins: pic.twitter.com/CDriLZwM6j— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 7, 2018
Starting Wilkins allowed the bench to remain in tact, a lineup Nate McMillan pushed 10 deep, including extended time for the rookie T.J. Leaf, scoring 15 on a perfect 6-6 from the floor, hitting all three of his three point attempts. Leaf not only shot with confidence, but rebounded with a force, coming up with six, including a pair on the offensive glass, which helped Indiana to a big advantage in second chance points, capping off with a big poster jam.
Domantas Sabonis had a dominate showing himself, scoring 22, including an eight point stretch in the third that kept the hammer down on Chicago despite a pair of threes from Lauri Markkanen that could’ve otherwise given the Bulls a final gasp of hope. Sabonis also shot exceptionally well, finishing 9-12, with a cyclone three of his own.
The bench outscored the Bulls 59-36, including a seven point, 10 rebound night from Cory Joseph and six points from Joe Young. The only guy off the bench who didn’t shoot well was Lance Stephenson, but he still came up with six rebounds and four rebounds. Darren Collison also reached double figures in the starting lineup with 13, hitting three threes of his own.
With Oladipo returning, the Pacers became fun again. It was a night and day difference in just how much Oladipo does to get this team going in terms of not only his own shotmaking ability, but in getting others involved, either directly or through his leadership abilities. That cannot be overstated at this team moves forward and begins to jockey for playoff positioning in the second half of the season, with the reality that they’ll need Oladipo to be there to be successful.
Having successfully redeemed themselves against the Bulls, the Pacers will look to have a shot at another revenge game on Monday when they host the Milwaukee Bucks. The availability of Oladipo will hopefully go a long way in reviving this level of energy to get another win.