Victor Oladipo, Jayson Tatum
Matt Kryger

Oladipo Shedding His Constraints

by Mark Montieth Writer

The restrictions are gradually being lifted — on Victor Oladipo's playing time, on his body, and on his psyche. Just in time for the Pacers to make a last-ditch charge toward homecourt advantage in the NBA playoffs.

Oladipo's progress since playing his personal season-opener on Jan. 29 has been gradual, and while not following a perfect upward arc, qualifies as steady as well. His performance in Tuesday's loss to Boston at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was the easily best of the 13 games he's played this season, regardless of that one got-carried-away shot from Zionsville when the Pacers had a three-point lead to protect, and the best indication yet that he's going to make a complete recovery from the career-threatening quad tendon tear he suffered last season.

He finished with 27 points in 28 minutes, 46 seconds, along with seven rebounds, four assists, and just one turnover. He hit 9-of-16 shots, including 5-of-7 3-pointers. He blocked a shot, too, and was his usual reliable self on defense.

If this wasn't "back," what is? More and more, he bears a striking resemblance to the All-Star Oladipo of two seasons ago. He was in no mood to make declarations following Tuesday's game, however, being too busy calling himself out for taking that 32-foot transition 3-pointer with 1:53 left when the Pacers had a three-point lead.

"Overall, I know it was a good game on my part," he said. "Something I can build off of, I guess you would say. I just have to continue getting better."

That was a different demeanor than he showed in the wake of his dramatic debut against Chicago, when he hit a 3-pointer from about the same distance as Tuesday's misbegotten fling to force an overtime. That shot made it easy to forget he hit just 2-of-8 shots in that game, and he followed up by hitting just 30 percent of his field goal attempts in the next five games.

He bottomed out, in a sense, by putting up 17 shots in 23 minutes of game action against Dallas on Feb. 3 and hitting just four. That outing included 10 3-point attempts, only one of which sailed through the rim. He said the following day he could recall only one "bad" shot. Coach Nate McMillan probably could have identified more.

Fast forward to Tuesday, when Reined-in Man played a great game but continually referred to the one moment that got away from him. That kind of performance, combined with that kind of mindset, bodes well for the Pacers as they try to climb to fourth place in the Eastern Conference and gain homecourt advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

Still, it will be difficult.

They trail Miami by 2 1/2 games. They have two games left with the Heat but have no chance to control the tiebreaker because of Miami's insurmountable lead in the Southeast Division. (Division champions win tiebreakers.) That means they'll have to make up 3 1/2 games on the Heat over the final 17 regular season games, a task handicapped by the likely absence of starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon most of the way.

Brogdon's absence will require more weight-pulling from Oladipo, not only as a scorer but as a playmaker and defender. He's shown an ability to lift increasingly heavier objects over the seven games he's played dating back to the one against Milwaukee preceding the All-Star break — he's missed four in that span with a swollen knee — by averaging 16.3 points while hitting 48 percent of his field goal attempts and 40 percent of his 3-point shots. Hardly coincidentally, the Pacers won six of those seven.

Oladipo has yet to play as many as 29 minutes in a game, so it's possible he'll be given more time to get his work done when the Pacers resume play in Philadelphia on Saturday. McMillan said Tuesday night game the team's training staff will help determine if the minutes limit on Oladipo, which was re-imposed after his knee swelled, can be lifted or extended heading into that game. For now, however, the plan remains to hold Oladipo out of back-to-back sets, of which the Pacers have three: home games on March 20-21 against Miami and Cleveland, road games on March 29-30 against Sacramento and the Clippers, and on April 7-8 at Miami and Boston.

He's sorely missed in any game he misses, but the Pacers are maintaining a long-term perspective, not to mention one of being grateful to have him playing at all. His continually improving play is one of the most encouraging things about them at the moment.

"I see him every day getting stronger, more confident," McMillan said, referring to both games and practices. "He gets out there and he works. He's going to get stronger and get more confidence."

And, Oladipo says, slightly more discriminating.

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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

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.

GAME RECAP: Celtics 114, Pacers 111

All 5 starters score in double-figures with Jayson Tatum scoring 30 points and 6 boards to lead Boston in a win versus Indiana, 114-111.

Postgame 200310

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GAME RECAP: Celtics 114, Pacers 111

All 5 starters score in double-figures with Jayson Tatum scoring 30 points and 6 boards to lead Boston in a win versus Indiana, 114-111.
Mar 10, 2020  |  00:02

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - March 10, 2020

March 10, 2020 - Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis respond to the 111-114 loss to the Boston Celtics Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Mar 10, 2020  |  03:53

Oladipo Again

Mar 10, 2020  |  00:10

Warren Ties It

Mar 10, 2020  |  00:07

Euro Step Turner

Mar 10, 2020  |  00:07

Turner Attacks The Basket

Mar 10, 2020  |  00:05

Oladipo Pulls Up

Mar 10, 2020  |  00:06

Turner Gets The And 1

Mar 10, 2020  |  00:07

VIc For Three

Mar 10, 2020  |  00:07

Sabonis Dunks It Home

Mar 10, 2020  |  00:07

Turner for 3

Mar 10, 2020  |  00:06

Sabonis Starts Things Off

Mar 10, 2020  |  00:06

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