With Victor Oladipo in need of an injury replacement after being named as a reserve in recognition of his season prior to rupturing his quad tendon, the Pacers are the only current playoff team in the Eastern Conference without a representative in the game itself.
They also don’t have anyone participating at All-Star Saturday Night.
According to The Athletic’s Scott Agness, Bojan Bogdanovic didn’t receive a phone call to be in the 3-point contest. The Croatian Sharpshooter ranks 11th in the league in 3-point percentage, and he’s the NBA’s most accurate shooter on corner 3s. His moneyball rack could have been straight-up fire!!!
Or, how about Domantas Sabonis repping for the bigs in the skills competition? The lefty center can pass his teammates open in addition to hitting the open man, he’s shown flashes of handles, and we already know he has pushing the ball up the floor for an uncontested lay-up on lock down. He’s even hit some threes on minuscule volume (8-of-14). (Ahem, petition to add dribble hand-off pitches to the list of skills.)
Alas, what’s done is done, which might not be such a bad thing given the team’s stretch-run schedule. Starting on March 7, the Pacers face a grueling 11-game stretch that sees them playing a near-to-constant stream of playoff contenders from coast-to-coast:
- Thursday, March 7 @ Milwaukee Bucks
- Sunday, March 10 @ Philadelphia 76ers
- Tuesday, March 12 vs. New York Knicks
- Thursday, March 14 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
- Saturday, March 16 @ Denver Nuggets
- Monday, March 18 @ Portland Trail Blazers
- Tuesday, March 19 @ Los Angeles Clippers
- Thursday, March 21 @ Golden State Warriors
- Sunday, March 24 vs. Denver Nuggets
- Wednesday, March 27 @ Oklahoma City Thunder
- Friday, March 29 vs. Boston Celtics
“I told our guys, tonight really starts what we’ll see from here on out,” Nate McMillan said following his team’s loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. “We’ll see more playoff teams down the stretch, and in this atmosphere. Get away, get your mind off of basketball, because we’re going to need the focus and energy that we’ve been talking about playing with to finish our season.”
Even with the chasm between the top five seeds in the East and bottom three, the blue and gold need to return sharper coming out of the break than they did last season to avoid limping into what lies ahead in March.
While the Pacers are catching a breather until they face the New Orleans Pelicans at home on February 22, here’s a look at the Saturday Night field:.
- Mike Conley, Grizzlies
- Luka Doncic, Mavericks
- De’Aaron Fox, Kings
- Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
- Kyle Kuzma, Lakers
- Jayson Tatum, Celtics
- Trae Young, Hawks
- Nikola Vucevic, Magic
- Devin Booker, Suns
- Seth Curry, Blazers
- Stephen Curry, Warriors
- Danny Green, Raptors
- Joe Harris, Nets
- Buddy Hield, Kings
- Damian Lillard, Blazers
- Khris Middleton, Bucks
- Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
- Kemba Walker, Hornets
Slam Dunk Contest
- Miles Bridges, Hornets
- John Collins, Hawks
- Hamidou Diallo, Thunder
- Dennis Smith Jr., Knicks
Share your picks and/or thoughts and observations from the All-Star events scheduled to air live on TNT at 8:00 PM EST as well as anything else Pacers-related in the comments section.