Pacers Notebook: New challenges in Game 4 – adjustments, noise, and focus on business

Lance Stephenson, Pacers, Myles Turner

Episode Four between the Pacers and Cavaliers will play out Sunday evening, the nightcap of the NBA’s four-game schedule. Tip-off on a school night isn’t until 8:30 pm, meaning players and fans alike will be waiting around all day for the featured event.

“I get restless before every game. It is what it is. It’ll be here before you know it,” Oladipo said after shootaround, seven hours before the ball is put in play.

The Cavaliers, who have reached the NBA Finals in each of the last three years, are on their heals after falling behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. It’s unusual considering LeBron-led teams have never bowed out in Round 1. But they can take back the home-court advantage with a win Sunday. They will do everything in their power to prevent falling back 3-1 ahead of Game 5 on their home court, Wednesday night.

That means adjustments … and plenty of them. That’s where we begin this mega notebook.

Adjustments

That’s the buzzword during the basketball postseason. What is each team going to do differently? What can they do differently? How do you adjust to their adjustments, etc.

For the Cavaliers it means many things. Definitely, it’s how they choose to guard Oladipo. They’re trying to get it out of his hands, bringing a double team and sometimes a triple team. They want to trap him and make him adjust. (See what I did there?)

“Teams make adjustments within games and we got to adjust,” Oladipo said, playing right into this note. “I think we did a great job of adjusting in the second half and I think our best basketball is ahead of us.”

In the first half of Game 3, the Pacers were all over the place. They coughed it up 11 times in 24 minutes. For perspective, they averaged the fifth-fewest turnovers during the regular season (13.3 per game). Not surprisingly, they came out a little too amped up in front of the home crowd and everyone not named Bogdanovic struggled.

That’s another interesting part to Bogey’s big game. He kept the Pacers afloat, only down by 17 at the break. And it could have easily been more as they chose to take out their emotions on the officials, too. They were called for 11 fouls, the Cavs for 10.

Among the things they have to be prepared for, according to Oladipo: “Realizing how they’re going to come out tomorrow, obviously with a lot more energy and their backs against the wall.”

For Oladipo, who is averaging 24 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game through three games, he has started to receive a new level of defensive attention since being voted to the All-Star team in February. Now, more than ever before, he’s not just on scouting reports but he’s also on Page 1, he’s highlighted and circled.

At Dematha Catholic High School, he was an afterthought and under recruited by colleges. On his AAU team, Team Takeover, he was never the guy. He went to IU without a glamorous recruiting ranking and just worked. But he was still the second guy on the team beside Cody Zeller, who was drafted fourth to Charlotte in 2013, two spots after Oladipo.

So this is the first time Oladipo is option No. 1.

“I was like the fourth option in high school,” he said. “This is probably my first time, yeah.”

Nate McMillan on Tristan Thompson expected to get minutes in Game 4: “We know he’s been a big part of that group and all those guys are available. Changes are going to be made from game to game. If we see him, we should be prepared for that. They’re going to use all their guys.

LeBron Needs Help

LeBron stressed the need for additional offensive production. And on the other end, “defensively, we’ve given ourself a chance to win each and every game. There’s going to be times where you just can’t make shots and you got to be able to still be in the game and that starts with your defense.

He has scored 36 percent of their points in three games — 98 in all — but he needs contributions from role players.

“Just trying to do what I can do to help this team win,” he said.

He might even get extended minutes at point guard if George Hill, who is listed as questionable, is limited in Game 4. Coach Lue was hesitant to place additional responsibilities on LeBron, who is averaging 42 minutes per game this postseason.

The Cavs have been held to 80, 100, and 90 points in the first three games. During the regular season, when they won 50 games, they averaged 110.9 points per game, the fifth highest output in the league.

After Game 3, LeBron was asked if there’s anything that he can do or say that could lead to another player stepping up big time, as Bogdanovic did for the Pacers.

“There’s a lot of games to be played,” he said. “We haven’t played as well as we would like to play in this series so far, even with the Game 2 victory. … Guys just have to play better, including myself.”

Stephenson, who loves going at LeBron, later noted “He don’t get tired.”

Well, we’re about to find out.

Bojan Bogdanovic, Pacers

Bojan Bogdanovic met with the media three straight days after his Game 3 performance.

Bojan Blocks Out Noise

Bojan Bogdanovic was the story of the Pacers’ Game 3 win over Cleveland on Sunday. He scored a game-high 30 points, two more than LeBron, who he spent signifiant time defending at the other end. Afterwards, he was treated like the star of the game by addressing reporters on a dais rather than at his locker.

It was easily the most media members gathered for a Bogdanovic interview this year, and quite possibly ever.

On Monday, one day after his career-best performance, Bogey said that while he had heard from friends and family across the world, he was trying to block out the noise.

“A lot of noise around last night’s game,” he said. “Still, we got another one tomorrow so we have to be calm and have a clear mind.

On whether he believes that it was his best game performance as a pro?

“Maybe. I had a lot of good games in Europe. But on this level, in the NBA, it was probably my best game.”

Crowd Noise

While touching on noise, a different kind of noise filled Bankers Life Fieldhouse Sunday. It was a gold out, the team’s 15th sellout of the season, and fans made sure the nationally-televised audience heard them. When listening to the broadcast back, that was accomplished.

Inside, it was the loudest I remember the building getting in several years. And, those that follow me know I don’t get caught up in crowd noise and what it means for these players to play in front of their home crowd blah blah blah.

“I could hear just fine,” Oladipo straight with a straight face. Then he smiled. “It was loud, but you’ve just got to scream [to communicate]. You’ve got to use your voice, you’ve got to scream.”

But Game 3 was … just different. It felt different. And it was cool that they opened up the window curtains on both sides of the building for the second half.

“That’s why we got practice so we know what we’re going to do before the game starts,” said Lance Stephenson. “We can’t hear nobody during the game. It’s loud. But we want that. We want the building to be loud and we want the fans to feel like they’re involved. It definitely helps, especially when we’re making a run.”

Pacers, Myles Turner, Victor Oladipo, Thad Young, Domantas Sabonis

Pacers players capture their look in a postgame photo in the locker room – with the caption, All Business.

All Business

The Cavaliers made a statement before Game 3 in Indianapolis when they arrived in the same outfits. LeBron had the team fitted for custom suits to coordinate a playoff look.

It was not for everyone, with dress boots and pants tailored higher than normal. But when LeBron says you do something (or wear something), you do it.

Late-season addition Trevor Booker of the Pacers arrives to nearly every game in a suit. And he’s typically the only one. They all have their own style but he prefers to wear a suit to treat the game appropriately, ready for business.

After the Pacers’ Game 3 win, four players wore suits and so they paused for a moment in the locker room to document it. Myles Turner then shared the photo on his Instagram with the text: “All business.”

Veteran Thad Young was one of those four. Oladipo, according to Young, joked that “We don’t ever see guys come into the arena dressed up. You can tell it’s playoff time. Let’s get a picture.”

“Playoffs is a different atmosphere,” Young said. “The cameras and it’s a playoff atmosphere and it’s business-like basketball. When you come in, you want to come in to show you’re ready for business.”

And just in case you have a surprise podium game, like Bojan.

“Yeah, just to be prepared. You don’t want to go to the podium with a sweatsuit on,” he said with a big grin.

Cory Joseph didn’t join in, in part because all but one of his suits are still in Toronto. “I have a lot of suits in Toronto. I don’t have them here.”

As for his teammates: “They look good. They came business like.”

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Tonight’s @cavs #NBAStyle! #NBAPlayoffs

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Prepared For This Moment

One of the ongoing themes throughout the season for this Pacers group was falling behind by double digits … only to come back for the win. In Game 3, they overcame a 17-point halftime deficit which became the second largest that LeBron’s teams ever lost in a playoff game.

While putting themselves in that position is not preferred, it’s as if the Pacers’ play in regular season prepared them for this.

“Yeah, it helped us a lot,” said point guard Cory Joseph. “It’s almost like we like playing from behind because we put ourselves in that position a lot of times. I guess it’s just a characteristic of us. But we can’t do that often because that will bite you in the butt.

“We all looked at each other at halftime and were like, ‘Well we’ve been here before so we don’t have any choice but to go out there and play our hearts out,’ which we did that second half.”

One Injury To Note

In a typical George Hill fashion, he’s not completely healthy but he doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s never been one willing to discuss what might be bothering — and sometimes limiting — him on the court. He’s an unselfish teammate, doesn’t want to make it about himself … and he doesn’t want to make excuses.

The former Pacer is dealing with back spasms. He underwent an MRI on Saturday and it revealed no structural damage. He will receive treatment throughout the day and is listed as questionable. If he cannot go or is limited, Jose Calderon will get additional minutes.

Proud Father

The New Orleans Pelicans finished off the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday night. It was a 3-6 matchup, Portland the better seed, but they sure didn’t play like it. The Pelicans, despite losing All-Star DeMarcus Cousins for the season (Achilles), swept the Trail Blazers and won by an average of nine points per game.

On the Pelicans bench is assistant coach Jamelle McMillan, son of the Pacers head coach. Although Nate pushed his son to not getting into the coaching business like him, he is so proud of what Jamelle and New Orleans has done.

It’s the first time since the 2007-08 season that the Pelicans have won a playoff series in four postseason appearances.

[Click here to listen to my podcast with Jamelle]

Also…

This edited video by the team at The Score is hilarious. The original video is from Fan Appreciation Night and Lance Stephenson was signing a t-shirt, which he then tried to toss to a kid. But it hit the head of an officer instead. Whoops.

Lance even shared the original video on his Instagram.

I was told that the officer arrived to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Game 3 in a neck brace and playfully informed Lance that he had obtained legal representation against him.

It was all in good fun. But, again, well done by The Score folks…

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