Victor Oladipo Returns, Pacers End Losing Streak
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INDIANAPOLIS – It had been two weeks since the Indiana Pacers (20-19) had felt that winning feeling.
But the return of Victor Oladipo gave them that feeling again.
The Pacers pummeled the Bulls on Saturday night, winning 115-86 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The 39-point margin was the largest victory the franchise has had since 2014.
Oladipo was back after missing 4 straight games---all losses. He continued his march to his first All-Star berth with a dazzling stat line of 23 points (9-of-11 shooting), 6 rebounds, 9 assists and 5 steals.
The blowout allowed the Pacers to manage Oladipo’s minutes by sitting him for the entire final quarter.
“(Oladipo) and I talked about just allowing the game to come to him, have fun, don’t put pressure on yourself, and he did,” Nate McMillan said of having his leading scorer back. “I thought he came out and was relaxed. I think in his first couple plays he was passing it and made a couple jump shots, looked real comfortable on his pullup and just really got to open up the offense for us, as well as the defense. He had a couple steals in that first quarter and really we were able to establish the tempo that we’ve been playing with most of the season.”
The Pacers had 7 players in double figures, with rookie T.J. Leaf providing 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting off the bench.
Indiana snapped a 5-game losing streak by pulling away from the Bulls in the second quarter. Chicago scored just 11 points in the second, which is the fewest the Pacers have allowed in a quarter this year.
That led to a 27-point halftime lead, as the Pacers beat the Bulls for the 3rd time in 4 tries this season.
The win for the Pacers came at the start of a 4-game homestand, before they head out west for a 5-game swing.
Without Oladipo, the Pacers have had troubles on the offensive end of the floor.
His return on Saturday seemed to be the cure all for a team desperately missing their star shooting guard.
“When you have a guy like that who is capable of creating opportunities for a team and have the ability to not only create opportunities for himself but as well as his teammates, it just frees you up,” McMillan said of Oladipo.
“A lot of what our guys have to do is catch and shoot. The defense is focused on him a little more, he’s capable of playing one on one and you know you have an advantage in a lot of those situations. I thought defensively he helped us establish the pressure by getting up, coming up with a couple of steals. With his speed we were able to get into transition and get some easy baskets, so yes he does have a huge impact on what we like to do out there.”
What’s Next: The Pacers have 3 games left on their 4-game homestand: Milwaukee (Monday), Miami (Wednesday) and Cleveland (Friday).