Indiana Pacers look to thrive despite dire injury situation

The Indiana Pacers have had a lukewarm start to the season. It was expected that the team would take some time to gel. However, a slew of injuries to the starting lineup and rotation have hindered the team’s ability to reach their potential but there are positives despite the circumstances.

There is never a good time for injuries to occur, but the Indiana Pacers have found the best time to be working through them.

As Chris Denari pointed out on the Fox Sports broadcast on Wednesday night, it took just eight games for the Pacers to use their fifth different starting lineup.

It took 51 games to accomplish that last season.

The only opening night starters to play in every single game are Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren.

In fact, the only rotation players from opening night to play in every game are Doug McDermott, T.J. McConnell, and Justin Holiday.

Myles Turner has spent several games in a suit and Edmond Sumner was a pleasant surprise in the rotation before fracturing his hand.

No timetable yet for Turner and Sumner’s return.

Domantas Sabonis missed a pair of games due to a calf contusion and Jeremy Lamb has missed three contests with hip and ankle issues.

With these pieces missing throughout the early portion of the season, the Pacers have been forced into a situation where they leaned on the rookie Goga Bitadze.

Due to those key injuries, Bitadze had been thrust into the rotation.

However, there is a new wrinkle. It was recently announced that Bitadze would miss Friday’s contest against the Detroit Pistons due to a concussion.

It continues for the Pacers.

The last Pacer to make this season’s roster, JaKarr Sampson, has started three games already. TJ Leaf has also logged some extended minutes. Expect that to continue due to Bitdaze’s absence.

Head coach Nate McMillan and his staff are being tested.

Being forced to play more often, Coach McMillan has allowed Aaron Holiday to play through an ice-cold shooting slump to begin the season to then break out against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night in his first career start.

Let’s hope Holiday can keep up the pace heading into a tough matchup for the point guard against the Pistons.

While the Pacers dropped a tough game in Charlotte over this stretch, the team has won four of five games since starting the campaign 0-3.

Much of this is due to the 14-20 record of the opponents the Pacers have faced.

The only team with a winning record is the Hornets at 4-3. While a team can never pick its schedule, weathering the injury storm is much easier against sub-par competition.

Additionally, up until Wednesday night, the bench has been a weakness of the team.

Again, the injuries and the next-man-up situation does not make this any easier. However, it allows Coach McMillan an extended opportunity to see who will be in the rotation when the team is at full health.

In this audition, the second unit’s frontcourt has played tremendously.

Sampson has been solid on both ends of the floor. Bitadze has shown that he can rebound, block shots, and play with the physicality that is needed for an NBA big man.

Both provide nice depth upfront. Leaf has shown flashes that may have been lacking in previous seasons.

Unfortunately, the injury to Bitadze hinders his ability to get reps, but expect him to get back on track shortly.

In the backcourt, both Holidays have been strong on the defensive end but have struggled with efficiency on offense.

After a quiet season in 2018-19, McDermott has been strong beyond the arc, shooting 43 percent. McConnell has played to nearly a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio.

Some positive things to build on.

The bench will never be a strength of this squad, but it can be much better than the second to last in the league in scoring, 22nd in minutes played, and 18th in +/- after eight games.

Finally, the team is integrating seven players who were not on the roster last season. The injuries and instability of the rotation have been a good thing for testing this team’s physical and mental toughness.

It is allowing different combinations to see time on the floor and work on gelling as a unit. This team will improve with time.

Again, injuries and players missing games are never ideal. However, this is something the Pacers are working through and have shown they can thrive and turn a sticky situation into a positive one.