Pacers Hoping to Get Sabonis More Involved

April 18, 2019 - The Celtics have limited Pacers sixth man Domantas Sabonis to just eight points over the first two games of their series, so Sabonis and his teammates discussed how to get him more touches.

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Pacers Hoping to Get Sabonis More Involved

April 18, 2019 - The Celtics have limited Pacers sixth man Domantas Sabonis to just eight points over the first two games of their series, so Sabonis and his teammates discussed how to get him more touches.
Apr 18, 2019  |  01:15

Shootaround: Pacers Looking for Right Shots in Game 3

April 19, 2019 - After shootaround on Friday, Pacers head coach and players Tyreke Evans and Darren Collison talked about finding their scoring within the flow of the offense.
Apr 19, 2019  |  01:17

Practice: Pacers on Preventing Scoring Droughts

April 18, 2019 - After a tough loss in Game 2, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan and team captain Thaddeus Young talked about what causes the offense to stall and what can be done to prevent it in the future.
Apr 18, 2019  |  02:33

Pacers Need Tweaks to Get More From Turner, Sabonis

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Nate McMillan was clearly sleep-deprived when he met with the media following the Pacers' practice on Thursday and, frankly, slightly and uncharacteristically grouchy.

You can't blame him. He had watched the fourth quarter of Wednesday's Game 2 loss to Boston three times: live and in person, on the plane trip home and then again while the game was being replayed on television after he arrived at his house about 2:30 a.m.

What did he see, other than his team missing far too many shots?

"We didn't execute well," he said. "The last minute of the game was the worst basketball I've seen in a long, long time.

"I take some responsibility on that. It was just a poorly-played minute of basketball."

Execution obviously will have to improve for the Pacers to extract themselves from their 2-0 deficit heading into Friday's game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. And there's no better place for it to improve than in the elements of their offense that involve centers Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis.

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They seem to offer the Pacers their best hope for a matchup advantage in the series, but it hasn't worked out that way. Boston's collapsing defense has smothered them around the basket, and Turner hasn't been able to get consistent perimeter opportunities.

The numbers:

Turner, who averaged 13.3 points during the regular season, combined to hit 5-of-13 field goal attempts in the first two games, including 2-of-7 3-pointers, in 63 total minutes. He's also hit just 1-of-4 foul shots.

Sabonis, who averaged 14.1 points, has hit 3-of-10 shots in the first two games along with 2-of-4 foul shots. He had five assists in Game 2 while finding open teammates against the Celtics' double-teams, but got off just one (missed) shot — hardly what a team prefers from a player who hit 59 percent of his field goal attempts in the regular season.

The Celtics are not switching as much defensively, keeping Turner and Sabonis away from mismatches, and forcing them to give up the ball when they get it around the basket. They're basically doing what McMillan wants by not forcing shots, but their teammates haven't been able to consistently capitalize on the extra attention the two are getting.

The Pacers rely on balanced scoring to make up for the absence of Victor Oladipo, but haven't achieved that against Boston. They had just two players score 10 or more points in Game 1 and four in Game 2. Neither Turner nor Sabonis were among them.

Myles Turner and Domas Sabonis

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

"We want to get everybody involved in the offense," Thaddeus Young said. "That's how we've won games...it makes us a better team 10 times over."

Still, there's no better place to start than with the big men, given their track records. And there's no doubting their desire to become more involved.

Asked if he expects strategic changes to help him get more shots, Turner said chuckled and said, "I hope so."

But he quickly backtracked.

"That's not my job. My job is to go out there and play. If I'm in position to get more shots I'm going to take it."

Turner has known playoff success from his three previous seasons. He had four double-figure games in the first-round series with Toronto as a rookie, two the following season — including a 20-point, nine-rebound effort in the final game of Cleveland's sweep — and four last season.

Sabonis started slowly last year in the series with the Cavs, scoring just 17 points combined in the first three games. He followed with 19, 22, and 19 points, then had 10 in the Game 7 loss.

Both players also were effective against the Celtics during the regular season. Turner, in three games, averaged 14.8 points on 52 percent shooting and hit 5-of-8 3-pointers. Sabonis, in four games, averaged 13.8 points on 60 percent shooting, hit his only 3-point attempt, and added 7.5 rebounds.

Sabonis is uber-conscientious, and therefore frustrated by his lack of production. He knows the team needs more from him, but also knows the coaches don't want him to force shots. He can draw some hope from last season's series with the Cavs, when he became more productive after tweaks were made to the offense.

"Coach did a great job last year of putting me in the pick and roll," Sabonis said. "He changed how we play, and that's where I'm most comfortable. That game plan changed. Hopefully we change something that gets us all going more.

"Coaches have a job to do to get us more involved, but I feel like they're doing it. (The Celtics) are doing a great job stopping it. I try to make the right read. (Defenders) are collapsing. The main thing is to keep the ball moving. You don't want to make it a selfish thing, like 'I need to score!' It's the playoffs. Winning is important. Keep the ball moving, find the open guy and try to get them the ball."

It works both ways, though. Teammates have to be more patient in the halfcourt offense and remember to look inside.

"We need to look for him a little more," Cory Joseph said.

"I'll be looking for him tomorrow. If I'm in position to create I'll definitely look for him. That's my guy."

Oladipo Returning

Victor Oladipo, who has been in Miami rehabbing since his season-ending injury in a game against Toronto on Jan. 23, is expected to be in Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Friday's game. He won't likely be on the bench because of the risk of another injury, but he'll spend time with the players.

"Vic is the most positive player I've ever played with," Young said. "What he brings to the locker room, what he brings to the team, is huge for us in all aspects. Just his presence, that's huge for us."

"Whenever you have Vic in the locker room, there's positivity...you're going to hear some singing, some music," Doug McDermott added.

It's uncertain if Oladipo will be introduced to the fans, but Doug McDermott knows one way for everyone to see him.

"I hope he sings the national anthem."


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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