Still without Oladipo, Pacers look to continue mastery of Magic
Since losing guard Victor Oladipo to a knee injury, the Indiana Pacers are experiencing mixed results without their leading scorer. At the same time, they’re feeling more at ease about taking the floor without him than last season when he missed time, also with a knee injury.
Oladipo, who is out indefinitely, will sit again when the Pacers visit the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
Indiana is 4-4 since Oladipo went down three weeks ago. Four different players have led Indiana in scoring in the last eight games.
“Last year, we were still trying to figure it out,” Turner told reporters following Thursday’s practice. “(Losing Victor) was definitely a gut punch. We didn’t have anyone step up and be that go-to guy and be that leader.
“And really, we haven’t had anyone be that one guy this year. We’ve had a bunch of go-to guys step up. We don’t have one guy we rely on when Victor is out. We have plenty of guys we rely on who can go out and score.”
Tyreke Evans will likely start in Oladipo’s place again. Evans is averaging 9.4 points on 31.3 percent shooting while playing about 24 minutes per game in Oladipo’s absence.
Despite the lack of production from Evans in the starting backcourt, Pacers coach Nate McMillan said the Pacers are not giving up on him as a starter.
“He’s had some turnovers, some missed shots lately, (but) we’re not going to go away from him,” McMillan told reporters after practice Wednesday. “Off the bench, he was doing some good things for us. Hopefully, he’ll find his rhythm and start knocking down some of those shots.”
The Pacers are averaging 107.8 points and shooting 48 percent with Oladipo out, but the Bulls held them under 100 points for the eighth time on a night when they shot 46.1 percent.
The Pacers allowed less than 90 points for the eighth time and held Chicago to 39.4 percent shooting. The Pacers are allowing 103.6 points in the last eight games and 102.1 overall, just behind Memphis for the league lead.
Heading into the game at Orlando, the Pacers are on a seven-game winning streak against the Magic. They also have won six in a row in Orlando and 13 of their last 14 meetings overall.
The Magic have spent most of the season hovering around .500. Despite losing 124-118 in overtime to Denver on Wednesday, the Magic are 10-7 in their last 17 games. Evan Fournier scored 26 points and Nikola Vucevic totaled 24 points and 15 rebounds.
Orlando drilled 20 3-pointers in a game that featured 21 lead changes and 14 ties. The Magic forced overtime on a 3-pointer by Terrence Ross with 6.1 seconds remaining but missed all six shots in overtime and struggled to defend Denver’s pick-and-roll offense with Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.
“We’ve been good in close games,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said. “We’ve played the most close games in the league. They’re considered crunch-time games (decided by) five (points) or less and we’re 5-2. We’ve now played 16 games — which is a lot — within plus-or-minus five points in the last five minutes. We’re 8-8 (in crunch-time games), so we’ve been really good in those all season.”
The Magic were on the low end of a 37-8 free-throw disparity against the Nuggets, leaving them at 30th in the league in free-throw attempts.
“We’re one of the teams that never complains and every time we say something, we get a technical,” Fournier told reporters. “It’s just terrible.
“Never stops, man. Of course, it’s frustrating, man. We’re fighting hard. It’s OK to not get the calls, but sometimes it’s just unfair. You can’t have that. It’s just not possible.”