There was not a lot of talk about the Indiana Pacers as the NBA restart got underway. They were solid in their postseason status, but not much was thought of them beyond that. Their current All-Star Domantas Sabonis is out with injury, and franchise player Victor Oladipo’s availability was questionable. The Pacers playoff prospects were not being touted as games got started in the bubble. After three consecutive wins, that may need to be reassessed. Indiana is not going to become anyone’s favorite by any means, but they will be a tough out for whoever they draw in the Eastern Conference.
Indiana Pacers Playoff Prospects Rising in NBA Bubble
The Pacers have kicked off their NBA restart with three straight victories. The first of those was over the Philadelphia 76ers, who sit directly behind them in the standings. This team is securely in the postseason, but they are using the eight seeding games as a chance to send a message. The Pacers’ playoff goals are not just to be involved; this team is looking to make some noise.
Buckets in Bunches
T.J. Warren has stolen the headlines with his ultra-efficient scoring through the first few games in the bubble. His 53 point performance in the victory over the 76ers is the highest output during the NBA restart. He followed that up with 34 points on Sunday and another 32 Monday evening. Warren has been on fire from pretty much everywhere on the court. He is shooting 65 percent from the field and has made 14 threes in three games.
In his first season as a Pacer, he is averaging 19.5 points a night. While this team is missing some key pieces in the bubble, Warren has stepped his game up to another level. He is showcasing his entire collection of offensive skills, getting buckets at will inside and out. The sixth-year pro out of N.C. State is not only pouring in the points, but he has also added six steals and seven blocks in the last three contests. Acquiring him during the offseason from the Phoenix Suns for cash considerations now looks like a steal by Indiana’s front office.
Back At It
Oladipo was a question mark as the NBA restart first came together. After missing most of the regular season, it was unknown as to whether he would participate. He eventually joined the team in Orlando and played in their first game versus the 76ers. He had 15 points and seven rebounds in the victory.
Oladipo is still trying to regain his best form after missing so much time due to injury, and then the enforced break when the season was suspended. He has proven he can carry a team when he is 100 percent, and the Pacers playoff goals will rely heavily on him getting back to full strength. Indiana will need to walk the line between load management allowing their star to get his rhythm back.
Malcolm Brogdon was also questionable with an injury heading into the NBA restart. However, he has made it back to good health and poured in 20 points and six assists in 34 minutes against the Washington Wizards.
The fourth-year pro was having a career year before it looked like a quad injury would end his season. The suspension of play in March became a blessing and allowed him time to recover. He provides the Pacers with a solid outside shooting threat, tough perimeter defense on opposing guards, and a high IQ playmaker to run the offense. At full strength, Brogdon and Oladipo give Indiana one of the better two-way backcourts in the NBA.
Make Some Noise
The Milwaukee Bucks are the clear favorite in the Eastern Conference, and the Toronto Raptors are the defending NBA champs. However, the rest of the contenders in the East are tightly bunched in the standings. There is not much separating those teams on the court either.
As the commercials have been stating, it is a whole new game with the NBA restart in the Orlando bubble. The expectation for some March Madness style upsets or drama is very high because all the teams are playing in a situation no one has had to experience before. This gives a team like Indiana a chance to surprise some folks. The Pacers playoff spot is already secure. The next handful of games will be used to regain the chemistry and momentum this team had been playing with most of the season.
With some key pieces like Brogdon and Oladipo returning, plus the explosion of offense from Warren, this team will not be an easy out. In a year and season where normal seems to have gone by the wayside, the Pacers will look to shake things up in the East. This team’s balance and consistent effort night in and night out will play a major role in just how much noise they can make.
Embed from Getty Images