Shootaround: Pacers Prepared to Play with Urgency

April 27, 2018 - At shootaround on Friday, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan talked about playing in front of the home crowd and players Lance Stephenson, Thaddeus Young, and Victor Oladipo discussed the team's mentality approaching Game 6.

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Shootaround: Pacers Prepared to Play with Urgency

April 27, 2018 - At shootaround on Friday, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan talked about playing in front of the home crowd and players Lance Stephenson, Thaddeus Young, and Victor Oladipo discussed the team's mentality approaching Game 6.
Apr 27, 2018  |  01:06

Pacers Still in Good Spirits Heading into Game 6

April 26, 2018 - Though a last-second loss in Game 5 put the Pacers in a 3-2 hole, they remain confident as the best-of-seven series returns to Indianapolis for Game 6.
Apr 26, 2018  |  02:02

Pacers Head Coach Nate McMillan on Slowing LeBron

April 26, 2018 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan spoke to the media on Thursday about his team's defense against LeBron James, who has surpassed 40 points twice in the series.
Apr 26, 2018  |  01:24

Spirits High, History Favorable for Pacers in Game 6

by Mark Montieth Writer

All season long, the Pacers have been at their best when things look the worst. Put them in a deep hole, and they're almost certain to climb out of it and at least make a game of the game.

Maybe that's why they were so loose and upbeat at practice on Thursday. Facing the playoff series equivalent of a double-figure deficit, they gave no hints of a loss of confidence, spirit or hope heading into Friday's game against Cleveland at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Down 3-2 and facing elimination from the playoffs in front of their home fans, the Pacers will have to quickly forget the frustration of Wednesday's loss in Cleveland, when a missed goaltending call took two points from Victor Oladipo and LeBron James hit a 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to overrule the Pacers' comeback from a 12-point deficit.

They appeared to have already done that on Thursday, when they closed practice with spirited shooting drills, as noisy and silly as ever.

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Coach Nate McMillan wasn't surprised. He's instilled a one-game-at-a-time mentality throughout the season, and not even the potential last game of the season has altered his outlook.

"I don't know how they're supposed to act," McMillan said. "We know the situation."

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They probably don’t realize it, but history is on their side. Throughout their previous 50 seasons, the Pacers have faced a 3-2 playoff series deficit on their home court seven times. They’ve won five of them, with the losses coming in Reggie Miller’s final game against Detroit in 2005 and against Miami in 2012. Their average margin of victory has been 8.6 points.

In the five series when they won Game 6, they went on to win Game 7 just once, in 1972. But that's a problem for another day. For now, they only have to think about one game, and they always seem to to think they can win the next game. They haven't lost three games in a row since Jan. 3, when they completed a five-game losing streak, and they haven't lost two in a row at home since December, when they dropped three consecutive games at The Fieldhouse.

Nate McMillan

"We do good when our backs are against the wall," Darren Collison said.

LeBron James probably doesn't care about any of those details, however, and he remains the primary challenge for the Pacers. He got to the rim for layups or dunks 12 times on his way to 44 points in the Cavs' 98-95 victory on Wednesday. He also got to the foul line 15 times – 13 times in the second half – and hit them all. He missed his first three 3-pointers, but then hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

McMillan said Thursday James had benefited from a moving screen by Kyle Korver to get open to take the inbound pass and could have had a layup if he had been defended differently and cut the other way.

A look at how the Pacers have fared in the playoffs when down 3-2 and playing at home.

Year Opponent Score
2016 Toronto W 101-83
2013 Miami W 91-77
2012 Miami L 105-93
2005 Detroit L 79-88
1998 Chicago W 92-89
1994 Orlando W 123-96
1974 Utah W 91-89
1972 Utah W 105-99

The primary concern for the Pacers on Friday will be to keep him from the basket – and then keep his teammates from killing them with 3-pointers.

"We didn't do a good job at all last night of trying to keep him in front and giving help weakside," McMillan said. "We basically hugged the perimeter. We were too concerned about 3-point shooters and allowed him to play in the paint.

"We've done a better job (early in the series) and it starts with controlling the ball and showing the tight paint and getting out to the 3-point shooters."

McMillan doesn't plan any changes to the starting lineup but left open the possibility of adding Glenn Robinson III to the playing rotation. That possibility was discussed among the coaches before Game 5, but they ultimately decided to give Trevor Booker a longer run, with a few defensive turns on James. Booker played 11 minutes on Wednesday, scoring four points.

Lance Stephenson

The Cavs adjusted their starting lineup after losing Game 1 and had to make another adjustment when George Hill went out with back spasms, but McMillan doesn't believe that's appropriate for the Pacers. Victor Oladipo has struggled offensively the past three games, hitting just 12-of-50 shots, and Collison hasn't been as effective as during the regular season, when he led the NBA in 3-point percentage. Domantas Sabonis, on the other hand, appears to have gained confidence throughout the series, and Myles Turner and Lance Stephenson have been fairly steady.

All in all it's a new team, with seven first-year players on the playoff roster. McMillan considers it an initiation process.

"Our group is going through this for the first time," he said. "I have to be patient and let these guys go through it. Trying to change and take someone out of the lineup, that can be costly.

"This is part of the process for us. It's going to make them better, whether it's this series or next series. Vic has to go through this. Myles has to go through this. Domas, these young guys, have to go through this."

The goal now is to go through it more than one more time.

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

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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