5 Things To Watch For Pacers Post All-Star Break
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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s time to play basketball again for the Indiana Pacers.
After 2 practices with a Training Camp feel on Wednesday and Thursday, the Pacers (33-25) will return to game action on Friday night, in hosting the lowly Atlanta Hawks.
The Pacers have 24 games left this season and currently sit in the 5th position of a very jumbled Eastern Conference.
Here are 5 things to watch as the Pacers get back on the court this season:
Veteran forward Thaddeus Young made it very clear on Thursday that the Pacers are hunting for a top-4 seed in the East
“That would be huge for us considering what happened this past year, what we lost and what people thought of us as a team,” Young said of climbing to a top-4 spot.
Young also acknowledged the natural concern that comes with a team maintaining the impressive momentum built in the first half of the season.
The Pacers have much more of a target now on their back, compared to the hunting mentality they carried with them to a 33-25 record before the All-Star break.
Can they maintain that hungry nature with the bar being re-set a bit?
Glenn Robinson III’s Return
Coming Friday night is the season debut for Glenn Robinson III.
GRIII will be eased back into the rotation while he tries to show a capable jump shot to go along with a strong ability on the defensive end of the floor.
Defensively, the Pacers have been using 6-3 Cory Joseph as their ‘wing’ defender off the bench.
Now they have the 6-8 Robinson to turn to in those situations.
Yes, Robinson’s athleticism in the open court should help the Pacers run, but his defensive presence will be counted on the most as he fits into the rotation.
Rebounding Must Improve
The self-scouting during the All-Star break has Nate McMillan focused on a few specific areas of improvement for his team:
-Rebounding: The Pacers have really struggled rebounding since the calendar turned to 2018.
-Defensive Intensity: Having Glenn Robinson III back should aid the Pacers in defending wings.
-Offensive Execution: With the playoffs on the horizon, the ability to execute in the half court will certainly be tougher as teams lock in defensively.
Rebounding was something that both Victor Oladipo and Thaddeus Young mentioned on Thursday as an area the Pacers need to get better in.
Victor’s New All-Star Title
For some, you might wonder how a player will react from his first All-Star appearance.
But Victor Oladipo between the ears is someone you probably shouldn’t have to worry too much about in handling such a rise to stardom.
Nonetheless, the defensive attention towards Oladipo is going to continue to grow in the final 24 games of the season.
Teams are going to want to take away the ‘Pacers’ All-Star’, knowing how the team has struggled when Oladipo hasn’t played.
Can Oladipo continue the career-marks he put up prior to the All-Star break in shooting (38.1 percent, with Oladipo shooting just 30 percent from 3 in the new year) and scoring (24.4 points per game)?
Finalizing The Rotation
With GRIII back in the lineup and Darren Collison’s return probably coming at the end of February, the Pacers will have their healthy group together for the final 20ish games.
It’s a very versatile 9-man rotation that Nate McMillan can settle on down the stretch.
The starters are there: PG-Darren Collison, SG-Victor Oladipo, SF-Bojan Bogdanovic, PF-Thaddeus Young and C-Myles Turner.
But how about the bench?
You have G-Cory Joseph, G-Lance Stephenson, G/F-Glenn Robinson III and F/C-Domantas Sabonis, who all can play multiple spots and can close out a game with the starters.
That gives the Pacers one of the most balanced first and second units in the league, something that McMillan will have to rely on with more at stake late in the season and into the playoffs.