Let’s remember one of the most fun nights of the 2018-19 Indiana Pacers season – when Victor Oladipo and Zach LaVine went at each other and gave us free basketball.
The Pacers had won 5 straight and finally had their squad healthy and rolling coming out of December. The Bulls, meanwhile, had won 5 games… in all of December. It was supposed to be a battle of rolling vs reeling, a game that should have little entertainment value.
Thankfully, that was not the case. The fans got what they wanted – an entertaining, high scoring battle that featured a back and forth battle between two studs. Let’s travel back in time to remember one of the best moments of the Indiana Pacers season.
100-94 Pacers. That’s what the scoreboard read when LaVine dropped in this beauty:
Beauty might be too strong of diction, but it was a tidy finish in traffic by the Bulls best player, and it cut the lead to 4. The Bulls were gaining momentum, and Indiana needed to take it back. With the lead meandering at 3 a few possessions later, Victor Oladipo got the team back on track with 2 free throws after being intentionally fouled.
LaVine 2 – Olaidpo 2.
That tie wouldn’t last long. LaVine was not going to let the Bulls lose:
Oladipo had assisted or scored on all 4 Pacer points since the first LaVine bucket you saw, but the Bulls best player was about to take matters into his own hands. He hit that bomb to cut the lead to 2, and suddenly this game had a life again.
Full disclosure here. I was scheduled to write player grades for this game. When the Indiana Pacers took a 6 point lead with 45 seconds to go, I thought they had the game won, so I write the recap headline before the game ended. “Pacers play sloppy, escape Chicago victorious”
LaVine hit the three you just saw and I still thought it was a lock the Pacers were going to win, so I began the lede. “The Pacers tried to lose an easy game in Chicago, but they finally banded together in the fourth to come back and win”. As I put the period on the sentence, Thaddeus Young missed a free throw. The Bulls had the ball, down by 3, with the shot clock off. Oh boy. Better stop writing.
Good thing I did:
LaVine 8 – Oladipo 2. The Pacers didn’t get a shot attempt up on the other end of the floor and this one went to overtime with Zach LaVine looking like he had won the battle. But this was a war.
Halfway through the OT, neither player had left a clear mark on the free basketball. Neither one had scored despite both of the players going at each other. Victor Oladipo finally got LaVine, though:
Vic broke down the D off the dribble and LaVine was late to help. He had to resort to fouling hard to stop Oladipo. Vic split the pair of free throws and the lead was down to 1 in the game, but the private duel was 8-3 LaVine.
Not for long:
Suddenly, the Bulls had a pretty strong grip on the game. They were up 3 with about 1.5 minutes to go in OT. The Pacers had struggled to score in the overtime period, so things looked somewhat helpless on Indiana’s side.
I looked up at my screen. “Pacers play sloppy, escape Chicago victorious” was staring at me. Oops. This is all my fault. I jinxed it.
I was lazy, so I didn’t change the title just yet. I believed in Oladipo, which paid off quickly:
It was a sick move that kept the Pacers in the game. I audibly let out an “oooo” right after the spin, mostly in disbelief that the move just happened, but also in awe of the battle going on between two electric young guards.
LaVine 10 – Oladipo 5.
The lead was back to 1 for the Bulls, but Kris Dunn would quickly dunk on the other end to get the lead back to 3. The Bulls were winning by that margin when the clocked showed there was 1 minute to go in the basketball game.
I had friends over to watch this game with me. We were all gearing up to go out for a night of drinks, so everyone wanted me to finish grades as fast as possible. That’s why I pre-wrote the headline about the Pacers winning. But now they were about to lose.
“You jinxed it!” my friend Kent said. His girlfriend, Meghan, chimed in, “If you change the headline to something about the Bulls winning you can fix it still!”
So I did. “Pacers blow late lead in Chicago to end winning streak”. My computer screen stared back at me.
Not even 5 seconds after freeing the Pacers from a jinx, Victor Oladipo teed up this shot:
Well, okay then. What a shot by Oladipo, and what a call by Quinn Buckner. We have a tie game, and a great one at that, with 55 seconds to go.
Oh, and for those keeping track, Zach LaVine 10 – Victor Oladipo 8.
Zach LaVine would finally be stopped the next time down the floor. He traveled, giving the ball back to the Pacers in a tie game. I had cursed him by flipping back the headline. The voodoo had begun to harm the Bulls in the same way that it was hurting the Pacers before.
Despite the game being tied with 30 seconds left, it would not be Vic to take the ensuing shot. Instead, it would be Myles Turner, who had just returned from injury and played a pretty crappy game up until this point. But we all will forget about that because when it mattered he did this:
Turner deserves a ton of credit for actually making the shot and giving the Pacers the lead, but the shot would not have been possible without the help of Oladipo. Vic had 33 points at that point in time, and the Bulls threw a double team at Oladipo to prevent him from being the guy to beat their defense. Turner stepped up instead and gave the Pacers the advantage.
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Now – I had a conundrum. Do I change the headline back? I was in a rush after all. I wanted to get player grades up ASAP, and the game going to overtime only exacerbated that fact. The Pacers had a 3 point lead with 30 seconds left. Do I change the headline back during this Bulls possession?
I changed it. “Pacers win overtime thriller”. I was content. One stop and this one is over. Then I can head out sooner.
And then Lauri Markennen hit a three to tie it back up with 9.9 seconds to go.
Out of ideas and wanting to avoid another overtime, I made the executive decision to erase any headlines from the WordPress page in front of me. Writing can wait, I need this game to end.
But in my own moment of desire for the conclusion of the game, I completely forgot about the Zach LaVine versus Victor Oladipo battle. My god what a battle. LaVine still had a two-point advantage, but the Pacers had the ball and some time on the clock. With no outside powers altering the game, Victor Oladipo decided to go for a death blow; one that would end the battle once and for all:
Pacers 119, Bulls 116. Oladipo 11 – LaVine 10. The battle was over. The war was over. The Pacers had won an incredible basketball game thanks to the heroics of Indiana’s All-Star.
.3 seconds were left. I can start writing, right? So I did. “Victor Oladipo saves the day; Pacers win in OT”.
That returned the curse to the court. Now Indiana was cursed and the basketball Gods were on Chicago’s side, all because I wrote the stupid headline.
Immediately, I regretted this decision:
The basketball Gods punished me. Zach LaVine was not going to lose this basketball game. It was fate that on this night that featured one of the best mano-a-mano moments of the season, LaVine would hit that shot.
However, the basketball Gods can push and demand all they want. They cannot defeat the powers of time and physics. It is humanly impossible for a basketball player to release a jump shot with .3 to go and still have time on the clock for the basket to count. Those facts held true, as LaVine’s shot did not count:
That was it. Final score: Indiana Pacers 119 – Chicago Bulls 116. It was a hell of a game full of twists and turns that saw two guys go back and forth at the peak of their powers. And the ending was just what Pacers fans wanted.
The Indiana Pacers won the war. The team found a way to get it done thanks to a stellar last half dozen minutes from their superstar.
And in that final 6 minutes? Oladipo 11 – LaVine 10. To the Victor go the spoils.