Victor Oladipo’s first points with the Pacers involved D’Angelo Russell, Thaddeus Young and a simple step-back crossover.
At the time Oladipo’s first basket with Indiana meant relatively nothing, but looking back that shot would be emblematic of what he would end up doing in big moments.
It wasn’t until 11 days later when Oladipo really cemented himself as Pacer and ultimately planted the seeds for his budding stardom.
It was a Sunday afternoon in November, right in the midst of football season. The Colts had just lost by a point and three days later Andrew Luck, the only superstar athlete left in Indiana at the time, would be put on injured reserve, ending his season.
A few hours later the Pacers went up against the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA’s most consistent franchise over the course of the past 20 years.
There’s 10 seconds left and they’re trailing by two points. Oladipo gets the ball at the top of the key. He performs his now signature step-back crossover to create just enough space to drain a ridiculous game-winning three-point.
The shot was ridiculous but what he did after it is what endeared him to Pacer fans forever.
The game winners (or sealers):
The first game winner Oladipo made was against the Spurs and I described it in the open. But here’s the full video.
After watching the shot again I still can’t believe he actually made it. The release was awkward because he had to get the full out of Aldridge’s reach and the ball clearly comes down at a weird angle but still manages to oddly swish in.
The most interesting thing Oladipo does in this game winner is how slows down the ball. He definitely could have rushed to the rim, beating the two-on-one of Lauri Markkanen and Justin Holiday.
Oladipo must instantly know when he gets the steal that he wants to take a three-pointer or drain some of the clock down. I wonder if his gutsiness was because it would have given the Pacers a two-for-one opportunity even if he had missed the shot.
I put this Washington clip in because it ended up being the game-sealing shot and I thought this was the game where the Pacers distinguished themselves as one of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference.
Oladipo had already played in the All-Star game but this one confirmed, for me, that the first half of the season wasn’t a fluke 33 points and he carried the team despite their second best offensive player Darren Collison being hurt.
Maybe the Pacers shouldn’t have been in this situation against the Kings but this was the exact type of shot a team leader makes. Ironically Paul George had a similar moment against the Kings in 2014.
The big games against good teams:
Oladipo scored 30 or more points in five of Indiana’s 15 games against the Cavaliers, 76ers, Celtics and Raptors.
The most memorable moment against a good team was Oladipo’s two games in Boston. If you don’t watch the two videos in their entirety you should at least watch his last shots in both.
The Celtics had the no. 1 rated defense in basketball yet at the end of both games -- on the road, no less -- Oladipo knifed through it to finish at the rim and seal the games.
He did the same thing in December against Boston but I can’t put the highlight video up because I think that game should be erased from the Internet, at least for Bojan Bogdanovic’s sake.
The whole freaking month of December:
December was Oladipo’s establishing moment. Over 12 games he averaged 28.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 4.0 APG while shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from three.
Over a three-game stretch that month Oladipo hit that game winner against the Bulls that I had mentioned earlier and closed out the Cavaliers with a 30-foot step-back three.
Then managed to score a career-high 47 points against Denver which was the highlight of his season, especially considering he got to it by dragging the Pacers back from eight points down with under two minutes left.
Oladipo scored 30 or more points for five games in December and if it wasn’t for an injury against Detroit on the day after Christmas he might have continued his hot streak when the Pacers played bottom feeder teams like the Bulls and Mavericks.
While Oladipo struggled for parts of the series against the Cavaliers he started the series off with a fantastic 32 points on six of nine shots from three.
He played decently over the next four games but struggled to find his three-point shot thanks to Cleveland’s double-teams. But he doesn’t get enough credit for his game five layup that should have counted.
It was clearly goaltending but the fact that Oladipo isolated the play so just Lebron James was guarding him and still decided he could beat him to the rim is really gutsy. The crazier part is he did beat James, and in a world where that’s called goaltending James might not have taken a game-winning three and the Pacers might have won this series.
Oladipo did manage to bounce back in game six with a thrilling triple-double in the Pacers’ most lopsided playoff victory. Then he managed to come back in game seven with 25 points in the second half and if he wasn’t forced to sit at the start of the fourth quarter he might have been able to carry Indiana to a game seven win.
Oladipo’s 2017-18 season is arguably one of the best single seasons in Pacers history. I would put it behind Jermaine O’Neal’s in 2003-04, Danny Granger’s in 2008-09, Paul George’s in 2016-17 and any Mel Daniels season.
But this was Oladipo’s first season with the team. I’m actually more excited to see what he will do next.