Oladipo returns and Pacers cruise

By TYLER SMITH (@TylerSmith_ISL)
ISL Editor 

Victor Oladipo scored 23 points in 24 minutes in his return to action Saturday night. (Photo by Pacers Sports and Entertainment)

Victor Oladipo scored 23 points in 24 minutes in his return to action Saturday night.
(Photo by Pacers Sports and Entertainment)

INDIANAPOLIS —  What a difference one player can make.

Victor Oladipo returned to action for the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.  And just like that, the Pacers got back to playing good basketball, snapping their five-game losing streak with a 125-86 win over the Chicago Bulls.  It was their largest victory since February of 2014.

For the season, the Pacers are 20-14 when Victor Oladipo plays, and 0-5 when he doesn’t.  That’s a .588 winning percentage when he’s on the court.  Only eight teams have a higher total winning percentage for the year.

In his first eight minutes of game action, Oladipo showed no rust. He had nine points, five steals, and four assists.  He finished the first half with 16 points, six assists, five steals, and four rebounds in just 14 minutes of playing time.

The Pacers led 64-37 at halftime, and kept cruising the rest of the way.

Valentines Day shopping, featuring local Indy vendors! Sponsored by Tiffany's Cakes in a Jar. Click the picture to view the event page.

Valentines Day shopping, featuring local Indy vendors! Sponsored by Tiffany’s Cakes in a Jar.

“Vic makes the game better for everybody,” said Myles Turner. “He’s not a selfish player. It’s great to have him back.”

Pacers Coach Nate McMillan agreed: “When you have a guy like that who’s capable of bringing opportunities for your team, it just frees you up.  Defensively, he helped us establish pressure.  His speed helped us in transition. He has a huge impact on what we like to do here.”

Oladipo finished with 23 points in just 24 minutes, a season-high nine assists, and shot 9-of-11 from the field.

Oladipo’s return also energized his teammates.  Seven Pacers scored in double-figures, the third time this season they’ve accomplished that feat. Domantas Sabonis had another big night with 22 points.  It’s the first time in his young NBA career that’s scored 20+ points in consecutive games.

Rookie T.J. Leaf scored 16 points and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field.

“He works hard,” Oladipo said of Leaf. “When you give to the game, the game will give to you. He’s been working his butt off. The sky’s the limit.”

“I’ve been staying confident,” said Leaf. “Keep working when no one’s watching.  If I play, I’m going to play my hardest. If I don’t, I’m going to cheer for my teammates.”

The Pacers shot 15-of-31 from behind the arc, and had 59 points off the bench.  It was the kind of total-team effort this team desperately needed.

The Pacers have a big week coming up with three home games against Eastern Conference opponents.  They’ll host Milwaukee on Monday, Miami on Wednesday, and Cleveland on Friday.

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