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Friday, July 30, 2021

Pacers enter halfway point struggling

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In an NBA season turned upside down by the pandemic, the Indiana Pacers are no doubt looking forward to the respite that generally comes with the All-Star break, as a time to regroup and begin the second half of a 72-game season, one that finds them currently at 15-18 and looking in from the outside in terms of a playoff berth.
First-year coach Nate Bjorkgren hasn’t had a full complement of healthy players at any point this year, and the loss of T.J. Warren and Caris LeVert have forced the Pacers to give starters’ minutes to reserve players, who, despite demonstrating good effort, have been overpowered by teams with superior depth.

While a losing record at home and a break-even mark on the road speaks for itself, there have been some bright spots shown, courtesy of Domantas Sabonis and Malcom Brogdon, who have been rock solid since the opening tip of the season. Sabonis will be playing in his second consecutive All-Star Game and has produced 21 points and 11 boards a night while Brogdon has countered with 21 himself, to go along with five rebounds and six assists.

The wildly inconsistent Myles Turner has been great at rim protection, leading the NBA in blocked shots, but has been anemic on the boards for a player of his size and skill, averaging just over six caroms per contest. Overall, this team is simply treading water in an Eastern Conference that will undoubtedly go down to the last week of the season with six teams vying for the last four playoff positions.

It’s worth mentioning that while this team has been outplayed often, their effort has been evident, and with the exception of a couple of typical mailed-in fourth quarters that occur from time to time in the NBA on the road, has routinely displayed good hustle throughout a rather difficult season to date.

Yours truly had this group handicapped at .500 coming into this season, so considering the injuries and a first-year coach getting acclimated, one must look at grading this Pacers team as incomplete at the halfway stage and figure they’ll compete for a lower-level seed in the Eastern Conference, which places them on the road in the first round, and more than likely another quick exit from the playoffs. Stay tuned, Pacers fans, as your team is hustling and at times has been downright entertaining, despite what their record may indicate.

Notes: The long overdue trade of Victor Oladipo has given the Pacers a rather interesting player in return. Caris LeVert, who is currently sidelined after surgery to remove a mass from his kidney, has the potential to be a rather special player upon his return to action. While Warren continues to recover from a foot fracture, it’s unlikely he can return this season.

The Pacers are now allowing limited numbers of fans to attend home games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Pandemic seating capacity has been capped at 25% and you can learn about ticket availability at Pacers.com.

Longtime Pacers executive Donnie Walsh recently announced his retirement from the franchise, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. His vast accomplishments and contributions to the organization are well documented, and it’s now time for the Pacers to hang a banner bearing his name from the rafters of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He’s a five-star person who has tolerated me for years, and l wish him the best as he now moves forward. At just 80 years young, he will continue to have an impact on the game as a confidant to those smart enough to seek his knowledge and learn from him.

Danny Bridges, who thinks Donnie Walsh should’ve been inducted in to the Basketball Hall of Fame long ago, can be reached at 317-370-8447, or at bridgeshd@aol.com.

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