Stung yet again by the injury bug, the Pacers’ shorthanded backcourt has the potential to be even thinner versus the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. Already down by Victor Oladipo, Malcolm Brogdon has been ruled out for a third straight game due to back soreness and T.J. McConnell is being listed as questionable with a sprained right ankle.
McConnell left Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks midway through the third quarter after he rolled his ankle while attempting to initiate offense. Collapsing to the floor in pain and chucking the ball in frustration, the team-first guard was hit with a technical foul and then limped to the locker-room as the Pacers limped to their fourth loss in five games.
Fortunately, despite the visceral nature of his reaction in the moment, it sounds as though there’s some optimism he’ll be ready to go by game-time.
“It hurt worse at the time that it happened,” McConnell said of the injury. “After treatment and some rest, it feels a lot a better and I’m pretty hopeful for tomorrow.”
That’s a good thing, because if he tests it and doesn’t feel equipped to help the team without being a liability, there isn’t going to be much in the way of reinforcements. After a rough outing in Atlanta rife with misreads, Aaron Holiday will be available to start at point with a chance to redeem himself from his bummer of a 5-of-19 shooting performance, but after that...well...the Pacers won’t even be able to lean on two-way player Naz Mitrou-Long, who is also battling an ankle injury.
In the event that worse comes to worse, they may have to turn to Edmond Sumner to pilot a greater share of pick-and-rolls off the bench. The lanky slasher has only appeared in 12 games this season as a result of knee soreness and a broken hand, but he brings energy on the defensive end and has shown some occasional flashes of matured playmaking in sparse minutes.
He also does things like this, which — if we’re being honest — was one of few watchable things that happened over the final 14 minutes of Saturday’s game when the Pacers shot 25 percent from the floor with more turnovers (5) than assists (4).
On the season, the Pacers have barely broken even (+5) in the 89 minutes that Sumner and McConnell have been on the floor together. However, if McConnell is out, then perhaps Sumner will have more space and opportunity to wheel-and-deal with shooters dotting the perimeter and Sabonis rumbling down the lane.
That said, as was the case in Atlanta when the Hawks started switching dribble hand-offs featuring Doug McDermott while overplaying his right hand, McConnell’s ability to subvert plays while still keeping the offense moving is even more noticeable in his absence.