Pacers empathize with Bojan Bogdanovic, rally together

Darren Collison was tapping away at his cell phone around 1:00 am Tuesday morning. His wife wondered who he was texting.

The Pacers’ veteran point guard was exchanging text messages with Bojan Bogdanovic, his teammate and fellow starter. Several hours earlier, with a one-point lead on the Boston Celtics, Bojan received a pass near mid-court from Cory Joseph and floated a pass to the center jump circle.

It was intended for Victor Oladipo, but stolen by Celtics guard Terry Rozier, who raced to the other end and scored the layup.

Ballgame. 112-111. The Celtics stole this one back.

(Bogdanovic had made 17 straight free throws. Joseph had made 19 in a row. Neither had missed since November.)

Collison was one of many players (and coaches) who stayed in contact with Bogdanovic after the heartbreaking loss. This is one that stings, and a coaching staff fears that it could impact future play.

Collison’s message: It happens. We need you. We win go on a winning streak and nobody’s going to be talking about it.

“I was thinking about him probably at like 12, 1 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “My wife was like, “Who you texting?’

“That game, I felt bad for him because I know it wasn’t just him. It was everybody. Everybody had a part to play in that game. … We need Bojan. He’s one of the better players on this team and he responded pretty well against Atlanta – and that’s what we need out of him.”

The good thing about the NBA is that there are 82 games, and had 51 games left after that tough loss. And yet they are still ahead of where anyone predicted – top five in the conference standings.

“That’s certainly a tough game to drop against the best team in the east after the way that you played, but it happens,” McMillan said. “For us, we had to move on.”

The notable thing in all this is the maturity, thoughtfulness, and togetherness of this group. They felt for their teammate and no matter the level of frustration that comes with losing in that fashion, they were up late thinking of someone they need.

“Nobody was told to make those phone calls or send out messages, but that support was certainly needed in that situation. And that’s just how this team has reacted to situations. As a coach, you talk about what happened, what we need to do to move forward, and focus on that.”

That experience has happened to coach McMillan, where he felt responsible for a loss. He signaled out a game in college when he fouled Johnny Dawkins of Duke. Instead of an impressive win for N.C. State, he still remembers that loss to this day.

“I sent an elite shooter to the free throw line and he made the two free throws, in our building, to win the game. … You want to get to the next game.”

The Pacers moved on to Atlanta. And they went down to the ATL and left with a 105-95 win, getting 19 points in 33 minutes from Bojan.

[Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

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