Prior to the season, those first 10 games seemed to set up the Pacers for some early success, but roster familiarity and a rash of injuries forced the Pacers to learn quickly on the fly and gut out a few wins with unlikely contributors coming up big while coming off the bench to help secure wins.
T.J. McConnell has stepped up to lead the reserve unit that was a mess over the first three games. Doug McDermott is not only making shots but delivering solid all-around play, forcing opponents to account for him. Aaron Holiday started the season making just 1 of 16 shots over the first five games, including 1 of 4 from three-land. Since then, AHoliday has seized the opportunity of playing time afforded him by injuries, including a starting role in the last three games (all wins), making 10 of 20 in his last five games and averaging almost 12 points per game while starting the last three.
Last night in Orlando, even guys like T.J Leaf and Alize Johnson were a factor in limited minutes thanks to scrapping on the glass. The bench combined to haul in 18 of the Pacers 44 rebounds (ORL had 37) and Leaf and Alize teamed up for seven of those boards while helping fortify the momentum during the Pacers second half run.
The schedule turns tougher over the next three games with OKC in town on Tuesday and then a nasty back-to-back at Houston on Friday and then home against Milwaukee on Saturday. Hopefully, by the end of the week, Myles Turner and Jeremy Lamb will have sturdy enough ankles to go, along with Goga Bitadze. Nate McMillan has been willing to utilize his versatile roster and he, along with the players, are getting more comfortable in those versatile roles. But more depth and options will be welcomed and the silver lining of the rough start, with so many player games missed due to injury is that the rest of the roster has had some success which lifts the confidence and chemistry among the whole squad.
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