Young Setting Example with Quiet Contributions
He's their fifth-leading scorer and has continued with his crack-slipping contributions. Yet the case could be made that Thaddeus Young has been the Pacers' most valuable player in their playoff series with Cleveland.
Also, one his teammates should be emulating for the combination of his consistency, effort and poise.
Young hasn't done anything particularly dramatic through the first four games of the Pacers' series with Cleveland, but he's done plenty to keep them competitive. The same things he did during the regular season, things he'll need to continue doing if the Pacers are to manage two more victories.
Young has averaged just 9.8 points in the series but has hit 56 percent of his field goal attempts despite missing a few easy shots early in Game 4 on Sunday. He's the Pacers' leading rebounder (8), their leading shot-blocker (1.5) and their leader in steals (2), and deflections (3.8). He's also committed just two turnovers in more than 138 minutes.
He's probably been their best defender, too, LeBron James' hot start in Game 2 aside. Consider that his primary assignment, Kevin Love, has averaged 12 points (5.6 below his regular season average) and is shooting just 36 percent from the field.
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"At the end of the day I'm just doing what I've been doing all season long," Young said. "Staying steady, being there for my teammates, trying to impose my will on the game in different areas.
Trying to shut my guy down each and every night."
Young's contributions often require a video review to appreciate. In Game 3, for example, he relentlessly nudged along the Pacers' comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit without ever stepping into center stage.
There were these fourth-quarter contributions, for example:
8:43: Young, pressing up on Love, forced a turnover on an entry pass that flew out of bounds off Love's hand. It led to Victor Oladipo drawing Love's fourth foul and Love having to leave the game. Oladipo hit both foul shots to tie the game at 75.
8:23: Young deflected a rebound of Jeff Green's missed baseline shot to Oladipo. Oladipo missed a 3-pointer in transition, but Young deflected the long rebound off Kyle Korver to give the Pacers another possession — although Oladipo missed another 3-pointer.
6:18: Switching onto James at midcourt, he deflected ball from James, bodied him up, and forced a traveling violation. That led to Bojan Bogdanovic's four-point play that gave Pacers an 81-77 lead, one they never relinquished.
On the Cavs' next possession, he bodied up James again and stayed with James as he drove into the lane, forcing him to pass off. The Cavs committed a turnover on the possession, leading to another Bogdanovic 3-pointer that gave the Pacers a seven-point lead with 5:40 left and forced a Cleveland timeout.
Young nearly extended the lead on the Pacers' next possession, when he faked a shot from the 3-point line and drove for a dunk, but a foul call on Domantas Sabonis negated the basket. He later grabbed a one-handed offensive rebound of Sabonis' missed 3-pointer, but Oladipo missed a 3-pointer on the extra possession.
2:10: Young rebounded J.R. Smith's missed 3-pointer, helping preserve the Pacers' 89-84 lead.
0:54: He hit a short shot from the left baseline off Darren Collison's feed to give the Pacers a 91-84 lead, forcing another Cavs timeout.
After the timeout, he deflected a pass to James into the backcourt, although James hit a contested 3-pointer over him.
Young was equally valuable down the stretch of Game 4 on Sunday, with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, 10 rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and no turnovers in the second half. He finished with 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds while Love had five points and 11 rebounds.
Young had not taken a 3-pointer in the series until Sunday, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. He had hit just 32 percent of his attempts during the regular season. He hit his first attempt in the first quarter of Sunday's game, however, and said he won't hesitate to take more.
"I'm just taking what's being given to me," he said. "If I see a straight-line drive, then I'm taking a straight-line drive. If I see a guy closing out on me at the 3-point line, then I'm going by him. But if I see an open jumper, I'm taking my time and knocking it down and shooting it with confidence.
"It's not by design. I'm staying patient and staying poised and taking advantage of the opportunities being given to me."
That's good advice for his teammates, who at times have self-destructed with forced shots or unforced turnovers in the series. Here's more good advice: it probably would be a good idea for the Pacers to get off to better starts, rather than digging a 17-point deficit as they did in Game 3 and a 16-point deficit in Game 4.
"There's no explanation for it," he said. "We're just not coming out and doing the things we do in the second half. We just dig ourselves a hole and we can't continue to do that. I've been saying that since Day 1, we can't keep digging these holes because we can't dig out of it each and every game."
How do they avoid the need to grab a shovel? Do the little things Young has been doing, for starters.
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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.
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