Pregame Post-Ups: C’s Look to Halt Oladipo’s Tear

Monday, Dec. 18 - Celtics at Pacers

Pregame – C’s Look to Halt Oladipo’s Tear

INDIANAPOLIS – For seven years, Bankers Life Fieldhouse belonged to Paul George. Now, there’s a new king of Indianapolis, and his name Victor Oladipo.

Knocking the fifth-year guard off of his newfound throne will be priority No. 1 for the Boston Celtics tonight when they face off against the Pacers in Indiana.

Oladipo arrived to Indiana this summer along with big man Domantas Sabonis, in a blockbuster trade that sent George to Oklahoma City Thunder. Both new Pacers have thrived in Indy, but Oladipo, in particular, has been playing on an otherworldly level.

The 25-year-old is averaging a career-best 24.4 points per game, which is a higher mark than George – a four-time All-Star – achieved during any of his seven seasons in Indy.

“He can really score the ball,” C’s big man Al Horford said ahead of the game. “He shoots it well and he just puts a lot of pressure on the defense, so it’s not one man’s job. As a group we have to be great at making sure that he’s seeing a wall and that we make him go through our defense.”

The Celtics had the fortune of missing out on Oladipo during their Nov. 25 matchup in Indiana, as he sat out with knee soreness while the Celtics ran away with a 108-98 win. Since that point, he has been on a tear, averaging 27.7 points per game over the last 10 games.

“You’re just continuing to see growth with Victor,” said Pacers’ coach Nate McMillan. “He’s been playing with a great deal of confidence. When he’s knocking down his shots and forcing the defense to have to guard him at the 3-point line, with his speed he has the ability to take what defenses give him. And that’s what he’s been doing. If you back off of him, he’s able to knock down that shot. If you come up on him, he has that speed to go by you. If you trap him, he’s giving up the basketball (to a teammate).”

Brad Stevens, who has coached against the Indiana University alum since his college days, says he has always seen star potential in Oladipo. The coach believes the key to harnessing that potential was as simple as finding the right environment.

“He’s found a great opportunity,” said Stevens, “and I think a lot of times in this league, with a lot of players, that when they find that right spot for them, they really thrive and flourish. Obviously he’s become a focal point of their offense here.

“The thing that I’ve always thought about Vic is that he’s always had a great vibe about him,” added the coach. “He always has kind of that extra bounce in his step. He’s a leader, he’s a guy that I think people really like to be around, and it’s good to see guys like that have success.”

It’s good to see, just as long as that success is put on hold tonight against Stevens’ Celtics.

- Taylor Snow