The Indiana Pacers are in the Eastern Conference playoff race for the second straight year. All-Star Victor Oladipo went down for the season, but they have are 11-6 since losing him. Lacking another star in Oladipo’s absence hasn’t stopped them from rising to the third seed in the East.
Here is how they have been able to keep pace:
League’s Best Defense
Myles Turner has driven Indiana to the best defense in the league. He also leads the league in blocks, is third in defensive rating, and third in defensive box plus minus. Turner’s 2.8 blocks a game ranks as one of the best shot blocking seasons in the last twenty years.
Veteran power forward Thaddeus Young has been another big part of Indiana’s success this season. Young’s excellent defense has him ranking in the top twenty in the league in steals, defensive rating, and defensive win shares.
WESLEY MATTHEWS. PACERS LEAD WITH 2 SECONDS TO GO pic.twitter.com/5j4ycdpYxL— Tony East (@TEastNBA) March 15, 2019
The key to Indiana’s league best defense has been forcing turnovers while allowing less shots at the rim. An excellent defensive rebounding team, they have allowed the third least two pointers in the league also.
Plenty of Career-Highs
On the offensive end Indiana has seen Bojan Bogdanovic take a massive leap this year. Averaging a career-high 14.3 points per game last year, Bogdanovic has broken out to the of tune of 18 points per game this year. Remarkably he has also reached career bests in field goal percentage, three point percentage, rebounds, assists, and steals.
Domantas Sabonis has also taken the next step in his young NBA career. In his second year in Indiana, Sabonis is a legitimate candidate for Sixth Man of the year. On only 24 minutes a night Sabonis is averaging 14 points, nine rebounds, and three assists.
As the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers struggle for chemistry on the court, Indiana is playing an established system where everyone is buying in. Come the playoffs, teams with strong defense usually end up going further. If they can keep this level of play up, they will be a nightmare for anyone in the Eastern Conference.