The Indiana Pacers went 2-1 in week 20, ending their season high season-game winning streak. They Pacers crushed the Orlando Magic 118-86 to start the week, as the reserves (led by Rodney Stuckey) ran away with the game.
The Blue and Gold followed that up with a hard fought overtime win against the Bucks in OT, 109-103. They nearly let the game slip away, scoring only 14 points in the 4th quarter while Michael Carter Williams got to the line over and over again, but came out strong in the overtime period and caught a full game on the 6th seeded Bucks.
The Pacers ended the week with a whimper instead of a bang, falling to the Boston Celtics 93-89. The Celtics are similarly hot, but were on the road on the 2nd night of a back to back, and the Pacers lost a bit of ground with this loss.
Let’s take a look at what we learned during week 20!
Solomon Hill is Still Struggling as a Starter
Solomon Hill isn’t producing, but the Pacers don’t have any better options. Solo had the worst +/- of any Pacers starter during two of the team’s three games last week, and his +4 for the week was buoyed by his performance during the Indiana Pacers dominant win against the Orlando Magic.
Hill shot 20% for the week from the field and 16.7% from behind the arc while contributing 5 turnovers and 7 total rebounds. Hill’s defense was acceptable (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Evan Turner both struggled from the field, though Tobias Harris worked him a bit). And he did have 6 assists in the Orlando game.
But Hill is struggling mightily.
The problem is that the Pacers don’t really have another small forward on the roster who is a better option. Even if Paul George returns this year, he will likely be coming off the bench for a while — if not the rest of the year — and Rodney Stuckey is thriving in the sixth man role.
If the Pacers want to be a spoiler in the playoffs, they will need Solo to step up in a big way. He doesn’t need to be a star, but the Pacers aren’t going into Cleveland, Toronto, or Atlanta and winning a best-of-seven series with Solo shooting 20% from the field.
The Bench Is Outperforming the Starters
Rodney Stuckey finished the week +40, averaging 23.7 points per game, 5 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Ian Mahinmi averaged 9 rebounds per game (though he did start once). Luis Scola finished +25 while putting up 12 points and 10.3 board per game. The reserves did struggle against the Boston Celtics, but have been playing excellent basketball, even when forced into the starting roles. The has been a true revelation for Pacers team that has, since Frank Vogel took over, historically had awful play from bench units. The Pacers have watched players leave and excel in bench roles elsewhere (See: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, etc), so getting this sort of production from guys like Rodney Stuckey and Luis Scola has to be exciting fro the coaching and front office staff, not to mention the fans.
What Else Can You Say About Rodney Stuckey?
Rodney Stuckey’s numbers: 55.3% shooting for the week. 23.7 ppg, 5 rpg, 5.3 apg, and 50% shooting from behind the arc.
Stuck is continuing to play out of his mind, and is certainly playing his way into a bigger deal, and now it’s come out that he may have had his good name smeared by an employee of the Detroit Pistons last summer as he was seeking a new contract. However, Stuck has come out publicly saying he loves playing for the Indiana Pacers, and wants to stay.
This doesn’t necessarily mean anything — players have said the right things about teams since players and teams existed — but it seems like he likes it here, and the team appears to be a good fit for him.
Paul George Did Not Return on 3/16
Paul George’s timetable for return is still an unknown, and he has said that he has concerns about affecting team chemistry (which Frank Vogel quickly shot down). PG is practicing in full with the team, and the team is taking the line that it’s just a matter of him getting into game shape. It’s unknown whether he’ll return this year or not, but there’s nothing to do aside from taking a wait-and-see approach.
The Indiana Pacers Week Ahead
Games: vs Toronto (3/16), at Chicago (3/18), at Cleveland (3/20), vs Brooklyn (3/21)
Prediction: The Indiana Pacers go 2-2, beating Chicago and Brooklyn but falling to potential first round foes Toronto and Cleveland
Last Week’s Prediction Results: 2-1
Season Long Prediction Results: 39-23
What to Watch For: GODNEY STUCKEY, remaining the what to watch for leadoff for at least another week while his play remains strong… Luis Scola, averaging a double double last week and looking more and more like he’s discovered the fountain of youth… Roy Hibbert, dealing with an elbow infection during the stretch run… C.J. Miles, becoming the second C.J. on the Pacers to deal with persistent foot issues this year… DAMO! Looking like a competent rotation piece one minute, and looking lost the next… The Pacers catching Chicago minus Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose a 2nd time… The Pacers creeping up on the Milwaukee Bucks and the 6th seed (and a much more favorable matchup in the first round, the Raps instead of the Cavs/Hawks…
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