Morning Shootaround

Victor Oladipo comes up big in win against San Antonio Spurs staff reports

Victor Oladipo isn’t Paul George. Most NBA insiders will attest to that, ranking Oladipo significantly south of George in talent, achievement and the ability to take over games and plant a franchise’s flag.

* Recap: Pacers 97, Spurs 94

No one, however, seems to have clued in Oladipo, whose play for Indiana has the Pacers and many of their fans surprisingly pleased. The offseason trade — Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for George — into which Indiana seemed to rush to avoid losing the four-time All-Star in free agency next summer for no return was widely panned. But so far — up to and including Oladipo’s end-of-game heroics against San Antonio Sunday — few can quibble with the results. Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star has more:

What was Oladipo thinking as he dribbled with the Pacers trailing by two, the seconds ticking away, and Spurs’ 6-11 forward LaMarcus Aldridge defending Oladipo on a switch?

“I like shooting at the end of the game,” Oladipo said. “This is the stuff you dream about. I’ve been dreaming about that since I was little. I was thinking, ‘Put a shot up, get a great shot, get a good look.’ And I got one.”

The Pacers’ victory at Minnesota last week was impressive, but this may have been more impressive, considering the opponent and the comeback. The Spurs were without two injured star players in Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, but they had won four of their first five games without them. They are a veteran team that knows how to close, directed by a great coach in Gregg Popovich. As the Spurs methodically build a nine-point lead, starting the fourth quarter with an 18-5 run, it was like watching a movie you had already seen, and one that would not end well for the Pacers

But not so fast. This Pacers team is young, but it has swagger. They make mistakes, but they do not seem to lose confidence. Pacers backup center Al Jefferson (seven points, six rebounds) is in his 13th NBA season, and knows a thing or two about team chemistry. He likes what he sees in these Pacers.

“It shows the fight,” Jefferson said. “We could have really got down on ourselves when we got down nine points in the fourth. But we didn’t. We kept playing and things started going our way. We kept fighting. That’s the way you got to have it, especially against a team like that.”

Oladipo says playing with an organization that wants him as a building blocks means a lot.

“It just feels amazing, when somebody wants you, when people believe in you and your talent,” said Oladipo. “It’s a blessing. I believe in myself, but to have your teammates, your coaches, and the city believe in you, too? It just makes every day sweet.”

Jefferson thinks the best from Oladipo is yet to come.

“He came here with confidence,” said Jefferson. “It reminded me of when I got traded for Kevin Garnett. [Oladipo] got traded for a big-time player like Paul. To take his place, to fill his shoes, gives him confidence. The way things went for him in Orlando and OKC? He comes here, he’s back home and ready to perform. I think he was meant for this role.”

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