Shootaround: Pacers Prepared for Physical Game 4

April 22, 2018 - After shootaround on Wednesday, the Pacers talked about the need for physicality in Game 4, especially if the Cavaliers elect to use Tristan Thompson.

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Shootaround: Pacers Prepared for Physical Game 4

April 22, 2018 - After shootaround on Wednesday, the Pacers talked about the need for physicality in Game 4, especially if the Cavaliers elect to use Tristan Thompson.
Apr 22, 2018  |  01:20

Pacers on Overcoming Slow Starts, Importance of Game 4

April 21, 2018 - After rallying from a 17-point halftime deficit to win Game 3, the Pacers discuss the adjustments they've made, how to avoid another slow start, and keys to Game 4 against a desperate Cavs team.
Apr 21, 2018  |  03:15

Bogdanovic on Emotions, Defense

April 21, 2018 - After dropping 30 points in Game 3, Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic talks about his letting go of his emotions, why he signed with Indiana, and his defense on LeBron James.
Apr 21, 2018  |  02:13

Notebook: Collison Looking for Fewer Misses

by Mark Montieth Writer

Darren Collison didn't try to miss his second free throw attempt with five seconds left in the Pacers' victory over Cleveland on Friday.

It wasn't a bad idea, though.

The Cavs have successfully run an inbounds play following made foul shots, with Kevin Love throwing the ball the length of the court to LeBron James for a 3-point shot. They did it when the teams met at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Jan. 12, when Love fired a pass to James in front of the Pacers' bench with 1.2 seconds left amid two Pacers defenders. James missed the shot, leaving the Pacers with a 97-95 victory, but the play was perfectly executed.

The Pacers were prepared for a repeat attempt, sending two defenders back to guard James. Collison's missed free throw, however, negated that possibility. J.R. Smith grabbed the rebound and had no choice but to dribble upcourt along the left sideline with Thaddeus Young shadowing him and fling a shot from near the midcourt line at the buzzer, leaving the Pacers with a 92-90 victory.

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"It really kind of worked out," coach Nate McMillan said following Saturday's practice at St. Vincent Center.

Collison joked about missing the foul shot purposely, but admitted he didn't. He had made the first one, rolling it in off the front rim, but the long delay while the Pacers set up their defense disrupted his rhythm for the second attempt.

Regardless, the first three playoff games haven't gone as planned for Collison. He's averaging 8.3 points on 37 percent shooting. After leading the NBA with a 3-point percentage of .468, he's made just 3-of-10 attempts against the Cavs. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 3-to-1 has been good, but not on a level with his league-leading ratio of 4.3-to-1 during the season.

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Collison hit just 1-of-7 shots on Friday, with three assists and two turnovers.

"Obviously, I didn't play well tonight," he said following the game.

"The playoffs, everybody's going to play you different. It seems I can't get open for any daylight. They're doing a good job running me off the 3-point line. As the playoffs go on
I'll figure it out. Obviously, I have to have a better performance than in this game (for us) to have a chance. I'll be fine."

McMillan agreed on Saturday.

"It's going to happen," he said. "You're not going to be Bogey (Bojan Bogdanovic) who gives you 30 points every night. You're going to have these nights with teams defending and giving up different things. Some nights it's going to be one guy, it could be another guy another night.

"We want him to remain aggressive. We're not going to worry about that. He took some good looks last night, they just didn't fall for him."

Bojan Bogdanovic

Bogdanovic Tuning out the World

Bogdanovic had what he considers the best game of his four-year NBA career on Friday, with 30 points and a solid defensive effort on James. Given all the places he has played throughout Europe and the United States, the Croatian native had plenty of people reaching out to him after that performance.

He tried to ignore them.

"I'm trying to disconnect from all those (social) media and all the noise, just to stay calm and connected with my team," he said. "A lot of noise, but still I'm trying to avoid it."

What Bogdanovic couldn't avoid Saturday was more talk about his defense. James scored 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting on Friday, so he wasn't exactly locked down. Bogdanovic also had help throughout the game, particularly from Young. Still, the world saw a better-than-solid performance from a player who's supposed to be one of the NBA's worst defenders.

Bogdanovic was rated the third-worst defender in the NBA last season by ESPN, ahead of only Isaiah Thomas and Doug McDermott, and was rated the worst small forward in another metric-based system.

The Pacers signed him primarily to hit 3-pointers and didn't even bring up defense when they made their free agency pitch to him over the summer. What they sold him on was opportunity and playing time.

"They signed me to be a starter, and when you're playing heavy minutes you have to play defense," he said.

He hadn't heard just how bad some ratings had him, though.

"Really? Last year? I didn't hear, but that was pretty bad, right?" he said with a smile. "I'm just trying to play solid. I didn't know that I was the worst, but I heard some noise that I was bad defender. I'm just trying to prove them wrong."

He also was prodded by McMillan's insistence on defense. McMillan didn't know what kind of defender he was getting in Bogdanovic but demanded the best he had.

"He just kind of became that guy for us," McMillan said. "We expect that you make the effort on the defensive end of the floor, whether you've been that guy or not. And he's made the effort."

Victor Oladipo

Oladipo Adjusting

Victor Oladipo has had to make constant adjustments since the All-Star break, when teams began pressuring him defensively, often with double-teams. The Cavs have amped up that approach in the playoffs, with mixed success.

Oladipo scored 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting in the Game 1 victory at Cleveland and had 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting (in just 28 minutes) in the Game 2 loss. He had 18 points in Game 3, hitting just 5-of-15 shots as the Cavs constantly met him with an extra defender on the perimeter. He did have seven assists, however, including three to Bogdanovic for 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

"It's a learning process," he said. "But it comes with the territory. I just have to keep growing and keep getting better, making the right plays down the stretch.

"(Be) very patient. Pick your spots wisely. That's what I try to do."

McMillan expects the Cavs to make more adjustments in Game 4 on Sunday, which will force the Pacers to react accordingly, on the fly. The primary response is for the Pacers to space the floor to make it more difficult for the Cavs to give help defense after a double-team.

"It could be a little different tomorrow," McMillan said. "Those are things he's going to have to pick up.

"It takes some time to figure some of those things out. We did a good job the second half of adjusting to what they were doing."

The adjustments won't end with the playoffs, though, for Oladipo.

"He's going to see this for the rest of his career," McMillan said.

LeBron James

Cavs Aren't Finished

By a superficial analysis, the Cavs are in trouble in this series. They're down 2-1, facing another game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and appear to be discombobulated.

Former Pacers guard George Hill admitted before Game 3 in a live on-court interview with ESPN's Lisa Salters that he hasn't yet figured out his role with the team. Hill had been acquired at the trade deadline but missed four games with an injury late in the season before returning for the final two.

He has been slowed by a sore back in this series and missed his team's practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday while undergoing an MRI. He is questionable for Sunday's game, according to Cavs coach Ty Lue.

Hill started well in Game 3 with nine points in the first quarter but played just 30 seconds in the fourth period.

James hasn't received much help from the rest of the Cavs, other than from Love, who is averaging 14.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. Love, however, is shooting just 40.5 percent from the field and had just three points in the second half of Friday's game.

Jordan Clarkson (10 points) and Jeff Green (eight points) have not offered much production, and J.R. Smith is hitting just 31 percent of his 3-pointers.

The problem for the Pacers is that the Cavs still have James, who scored 46 points in Cleveland's Game 2 victory.

"LeBron's been down 3-1 in the Finals," said Collison, referring to the Cavs' 2016 championship. "I don't think he's discouraged one bit. You have to stay ready. There's no sense of a letdown when you play against a LeBron team.

"It's not just him. Ty Lue as a coach, the rest of the coaching staff, Kevin Love...they've been in some desperate situations. This is nothing new for them. If anything, we've got to play even harder."

James was not available to the media on Saturday, but Love professed optimism.

"I think the want is definitely there," he said. "I don't think you'd be asking that question if we won the game last night."

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Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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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