The review of Thursday's 120-96 loss to Philadelphia wasn't any prettier than the game itself for the Pacers, but it did offer a silver lining.
Several players, as well as coach Nate McMillan, declared poor shooting as the primary and simple reason for the defeat. The Pacers needed a relatively hot-shooting fourth quarter to lift their overall shooting percentage to 40 percent for the game. They hit just 9-of-31 3-pointers and missed several shots around the basket as well. Guarded or not, it didn't matter.
They also agreed, however, they allowed their poor shooting to seep into their defensive effort.
"There's going to be games where we hit shots and games where we don't, but our effort defensively has to be top-notch no matter what," Victor Oladipo said.
Oladipo, however, said the one-of-those-nights shooting effort helped them shake off the outcome. The Pacers still rank as the second-most accurate shooting team in the NBA, and don't expect to suffer through too many nights such as that one. Hence, optimism.
Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images
"Some of us came (to the video session) discouraged but left encouraged," Oladipo said.
Added McMillan: "It's a loss. We move on. There's a lot of games ahead of us."
Oladipo reiterated his promise from Thursday's postgame locker room to play more aggressively. That, however, doesn't necessarily mean shooting more often. He attempted 20 field goals against the Sixers, but hit only six. He often settled for jumpers, however, and didn't attempt a single free throw.
How does he plan to be more aggressive?
"Whatever I think is best for my team to win," he said. "Attacking in general. Just play the game I've been playing my whole life. I have a lot of attention on me, but I can never lose my aggressiveness."
While some fans have wondered if he's still feeling the effects of the sore knee that kept him out 11 games from Nov. 19 through Dec 10, Oladipo said his health is fine.
"I don't blame them for thinking that, I haven't been myself for a while," he said.
Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images
Dirk's Last Visit?
Saturday's game against the Mavericks could be the last time Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki plays in Indianapolis. The 40-year-old veteran of 21 NBA seasons hasn't formally announced his retirement, but is in the final year of a contract and has hinted strongly at the possibility.
Nowitzki had played 35 games against the Pacers before this season, averaging 23.1 points in those games. The only opponent against whom he has a higher career scoring average is Boston (24.5).
He made his NBA debut on Feb. 5, 1999, but didn't play against the Pacers for the first time until Feb. 21, 2000. The Pacers won that game at then-Conseco Fieldhouse, 94-93, as Reggie Miller hit two free throws and then forced Mavericks forward Michael Finley into a missed shot in the final seconds. Nowitzki had 23 points, eight rebounds, and five assists in that game and hit a 3-pointer with 31 seconds remaining to give Dallas a four-point lead.
Of the current Pacers, Nowitzki's career has been particularly meaningful to Pacers center Myles Turner, who grew up in the Dallas area. Turner had just turned 15 when the Mavericks won the NBA championship in 2011, and hasn't forgotten the buzz that created in the city.
Nowitzki's rare agility for a 7-footer made an impression on Turner, and was a motivating force.
"After games I'd try to do fadeways, the one-legged stuff, shooting threes," Turner said. "I'd put his jersey on and go shoot, all that kind of stuff."
Turner Jersey Raising Funds for Clean Water
Jersey exchanges are all the rage in the NBA these days, as players trade with one another or with athletes from other sports.
A new exchange program, however, is utilizing the process to provide safe drinking water to schools in Kenya. Underdogs United is sponsoring the fundraiser by enlisting athletes in the major American sports, Olympians and athletes from other countries to donate an autographed jersey in exchange for one custom-made by a tailor in Kenya. The athlete then donates an autographed jersey to be awarded to the highest bidder on the website www.gounderdogs.org.
It's designed to be a win-win transaction. The athlete gets a unique jersey to keep. The highest bidder gets a piece of memorabilia and donates to a cause. A group of five tailors in Kenya are hired to produce the jerseys and rural schools receive filtration systems for their water supply.
Stephen Grabauer, who founded the organization, said Turner was among the first athletes to join the program. Other NBA players participating include Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Al Horford, and the three Holiday brothers: Justin, Jrue, and Pacers rookie Aaron.
The bidding for Turner's jersey had reached $280 on Friday.
"I just like what they're doing with everything that's going on in the Motherland," Turner said. "Any time anybody can help anybody over there...I love the stuff (recording artist and producer) Akon is doing, stuff that doesn't get talked about a lot in the media. Anytime anything has something to do with stuff over there in Africa, I want to jump on it."
Turner wore his custom jersey, hand-stitched with what Gabauer described as "unique East African fabrics," to Thursday's game against Philadelphia and said he will keep it in his wardrobe rotation.
Bidding for Turner's jersey ends on Jan. 24. The auction of Holiday's jersey has just begun.
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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.
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