While Victor Oladipo powered the Indiana Pacers last year, it was Bojan Bogdanovic that gave us 2018’s greatest moment in Game 3 of the playoffs.
While there is little question how influential Victor Oladipo is to this era of the Indiana Pacers, the greatest moment from 2018 was Bojan Bogdanovic’s performance in Game 3 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Just to reiterate, Oladipo is the source of so much of what the Pacers do. He is a constant force that pushes Indiana beyond what most expected. He is the one Indiana turns to when they need points. To not even mention him here would leave out the main plot of 2018’s story.
But as for the moment that sticks out the most and also carried the most impact, that recognition belongs to Bogdanovic. The Croatian stepped up in a moment where they needed him — Oladipo’s offense was a mess early in the series — and delivered a win and hope to the Indiana Pacers.
Hope. That’s something Indiana didn’t have — or at least those outside of the team itself — when last season began. The two previous seasons were filled with teams with flaws that limited their potential as well as the fun of watching them. They were ugly slogs for fans and the team alike.
But once Bojan’s shots started falling in Game 3, the series no longer felt like a LeBron James’ curated death sentence. It felt like there was a real chance Indiana could finally get past LeBron in the playoffs. They fell short of that goal, but they never get to Game 7 without Bojan dropping 30 points in Game 3.
Bojan finished the game with 30 points on 11 of 15 shooting, including 7 of 9 from beyond the arc.
Bogdanovic’s aggression in attacking the basket is something we’ve seen more of this year, but those smooth 3-pointers were dropping as well in the first quarter. The points were critical to the win, too, as Indiana spent much of the first half trailing by double-digits. Indiana can’t get back in the game without No. 44 chipping away here and there in the first half.
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The second half saw Bojan start off slowly with just a pair of contested baskets, but he and the rest of the Pacers cut Cleveland’s lead down to a more manageable single-digit one, setting the stage for the fourth quarter.
Bogdanovic dropped four of his seven 3-pointers in the final period, punctuated by 7-point barrage in under 30 seconds. The first broke a tie as Bojan was fouled by Kyle Korver, leading to a 4-point play that gave Indiana the lead. It wasn’t long after that he buried one from the shallow corner, resetting the game to put the Cavaliers in chase-mode.
Cleveland would tie it up and remain close, but a 5-point surge in just over 30 seconds from Bogdanovic all but sealed the deal for the Pacers.
It’s playoff moments like this what we remember most as fans. The Paul George dunk over Birdman, the Roy Hibbert swat of Carmelo Anthony, and of course, 8 Points, 9 Seconds, are the moments we go back to when we talk about the good times with the Pacers. There are plenty more of them too, and outside of winning a title, that’s the moments we love the most as fans.
Bogdanovic looks even better this season and compared to last season, a 30-point night from him in a big game wouldn’t be as surprising. But you can look back to Game 3 of that series with Cleveland when he raised expectations for himself and the Pacers in that series.
2019 is here, and for Bojan Bogdanovic and the Indiana Pacers, there are even higher expectations for this season. If the Pacers are to reach those goals and remain in the top of the Eastern Conference, they’ll need more games like that one come playoff time.