Thu, 09 Apr 2020

Oladipo, Pacers start stretch run against Knicks

Field Level Media
21 Feb 2020, 06:55 GMT+10

As the Indiana Pacers begin their march toward the playoffs with Friday's visit to the New York Knicks, they'll be doing so with a healthy Victor Oladipo, who is ready to ramp up his minutes.

Oladipo will be playing in his eighth game since missing a little more than a year with a ruptured quadriceps injury. In the first seven games, he averaged 25 minutes and did not play more than 29 minutes in any game.

On Wednesday, coach Nate McMillan told reporters that doctors cleared Oladipo to start playing 32 to 34 minutes, which is on par with his career average of 33.1 minutes per game.

"He's pretty happy about that," McMillan said. "But we're going to be smart about it. I can play him as many minutes as I want, but we'll look at how he comes out of those games with increased minutes and adjust accordingly."

Last season, Oladipo averaged 31.9 minutes and 18.8 points before getting hurt. Two years ago, in his first season with the Pacers, he averaged 23.1 points while playing 34 minutes.

So far, Oladipo is averaging 11.1 points while shooting 32.9 percent from the floor. He entered the All-Star break on an encouraging note by scoring 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in a 118-111 home win over Milwaukee on Feb. 12.

The win over the Bucks broke a season-high six-game losing streak that saw the Pacers lose two one-point games but did little to negatively impact their hold on sixth in the Eastern Conference.

"They're starting to get used to me being back out there, but now it's time to focus on bigger goals," Oladipo said.

One of the games in the losing skid was a 92-85 home loss to the Knicks on Feb. 1. Oladipo was 2-of-14 shooting in that game, and the Pacers scored just 11 points in the first quarter and 14 in the fourth.

The win in Indiana began a four-game winning streak for the Knicks, but two defeats followed. New York headed into the All-Star break with a 114-96 home loss to Washington on Feb. 12 when they were outscored 37-23 in the fourth quarter and missed 20 of 23 3-point tries.

While the Knicks are playing better of late and are 13-20 since firing David Fizdale and replacing him with Mike Miller on Dec. 6, most of the focus over the final two months will be on who the next coach could be.

Steve Stoute, New York's branding consultant, told ESPN recently that a new coach would be in place next season. The Knicks eventually released a statement to disavow those comments, and Miller has shrugged off the speculation.

"He's focused on us every day, preparing us every day the best way he can," Knicks forward Julius Randle said of Miller after practice on Wednesday. "He's never too high, never too low. If we have a loss, after the game, he's not super emotional."

Miller's first game was a 104-103 home loss to Indiana on Dec. 7 when Randle missed a free throw with 0.1 seconds left.

--Field Level Media

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