Pacers Feeling a Special Bond, Playing "Beautiful Basketball"

Dec. 22, 2017 - After practice on Friday, the Pacers talked about having a strong bond with each other, and how their sharing of the basketball has led to a high-powered offense.

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Pacers Feeling a Special Bond, Playing "Beautiful Basketball"

Dec. 22, 2017 - After practice on Friday, the Pacers talked about having a strong bond with each other, and how their sharing of the basketball has led to a high-powered offense.
Dec 22, 2017  |  02:07

After Tough Loss, Pacers Forgive and Forget

by Mark Montieth Writer

Play the game long enough, and you're bound to be the goat at some point. Not the Greatest Of All Time, but "goat" in the old-school sense of the word. The one who makes the mistake or misses the shot that costs your team a game.

"Everybody's had that game," Darren Collison was saying following the Pacers' practice on Friday. "Everybody. If you're an athlete, you compete in sports, you're going to have that game."

Bojan Bogdanovic had that game on Monday, when his soft, floating lame duck of a pass was picked off and turned into a game-winning dunk in the final seconds of the Pacers' loss to Boston at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That mental error helped ruin a startling comeback from a 19-point deficit to a five-point lead with 31.3 seconds remaining.

But what seemed like a crushing defeat at the time has turned out to be a positive in the long run for the Pacers. Bogdanovic's teammates rallied around him in his time of need and he responded with a solid 19-point game in their victory over Atlanta on Wednesday. He had not made himself available after Monday's game and wasn't available for comment following Friday's workout, but his televised remarks on Wednesday and his teammates' comments on Friday displayed and likely amplified the chemistry this team has shown throughout its surprising season.

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"That was certainly a tough game to drop," coach Nate McMillan said. "It happens. We had to move on and get ourselves ready for the next game.

"That was tough, certainly, for Bojan. But that's a moment in life. Moments come and go, and you have to move on."

McMillan remembers one of the "moments" from his playing career. And if he's moved on from it, he hasn't forgotten it.

As a senior at North Carolina State, he was the point guard on the 17th-ranked team in the country when it played a home game against No. 2-ranked Duke on Feb. 15, 1986. The game was tied when McMillan fouled Blue Devils guard Johnny Dawkins' jumper from the left corner with two seconds remaining, sending the All-American to the foul line for what turned out to be the game-winning free throws.

"As a player in that situation, you feel you let the whole university down," McMillan said. "You just want to get to the next game, so you can get that out of your system."

McMillan doesn't recall how his teammates reacted to his mistake, but it couldn't have been any better than Bogdanovic's teammates responded to his faux pass - none of it requested by McMillan, by the way.

Collison, for example, texted Bogdanovic at 1 AM after Monday's game.

"My wife was like, 'Who you texting?'" Collison recalled.

"That game, I felt bad for him because it wasn't just him. It was everybody. You can talk about the pass all you want, but there are certain things everybody could have done better."

The gist of the text: "You're good. Don't worry about it. We win the next two or three games, nobody's going to be talking about it."

Co-captain Thad Young spoke to Bogdanovic directly, and succinctly:

"(It) happens. Move on to the next one. We're fine. We dropped one. Next time we'll hold (the ball) or get ourselves in good position to shoot free throws."

Lance Stephenson, who had spoken up for Bogdanovic quietly and sincerely in the postgame locker room on Monday, waited until pregame warmups on Wednesday to speak to him directly. "You know this is going to be a good game for you, don't you?" he said then.

"That's what it's all about, responding," Stephenson said on Friday. "You make a mistake, you respond the next game.

"When you've got a good group of teammates who encourage you to keep pushing and don't worry about mistakes, it's always a blessing to have that. I think he was mad, but he got over it and you saw in the next game he played unbelievable."

Stephenson said Bogdanovic did not apologize to the rest of the team, but didn't need to. Everyone had made mistakes that contributed to the loss to the Celtics, particularly while piling dirt on the 19-point mountain that had to be overcome.

"I make mistakes, like going under screens sometimes, not chasing the shooter," Stephenson said. "I say 'My bad' and we move on from that. We don't throw each other under the bus."

Because of that, the Pacers' bus began moving forward again in Atlanta on Wednesday. By the end of the season, who knows? That loss to Boston could be viewed as, not a turning point, but one of those "moments" that could have ruptured their bond, but instead solidified it.

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