Celtics-Pacers preview: Benefiting from emergence of Oladipo

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When word came down that Paul George was on the move and it wasn’t to Boston, there were many who believed that Danny Ainge blew his shot at trading for an established star during the offseason.

The Indiana Pacers were sending the 27-year-old George to Oklahoma City for a package of Victor Oladipo and Domantis Sabonis, prompting some Pacers fans to wonder if Indiana got enough in return for the four-time All-Star.  

While both fan bases weren’t all that thrilled about the trade at that time, it’s fair to say that things have worked out quite well for both teams.

Nearly a month later, the Boston Celtics added Kyrie Irving after trading away Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the first-round pick they are to receive in next June’s draft from the Brooklyn Nets.

The fortunes of both Boston and Indiana have indeed been bolstered by them not engaging in a trade involving George, evident by each team being in a significantly better position as they gear up to face off tonight.

Boston (25-7) comes in with the best record in the East while the Pacers (17-13) are tied for the fourth-best record in the East with Detroit.

And while the Celtics have benefited heavily from a number of players stepping up their play this season, few would argue that the play of Irving has been the biggest difference-maker in Boston’s success.

A four-time All-star, the 25-year-old guard has emerged as one of the top players in the NBA this season in large part because of his play and the impact he has had on what has been the best start in Brad Stevens’ four-plus seasons as the Celtics’ head coach.

As for the Pacers, their unexpected success has been fueled in large part by the emergence of Oladipo.

He is averaging a career-best 24.4 points per game which ranks 10th in the league in scoring.

Irving isn’t too far behind, averaging 24.2 points which ranks 12th in the NBA. However, Irving has a slightly higher shooting percentage (.492 compared to .478 for Oladipo) and more assists (4.9 compared to 4.0 for Oladipo).

For Boston, the focus now is to start playing with better consistency.

Since winning 16 straight games, Boston has since gone 9-5 with inconsistent play at both ends of the floor which has in part been due to them not playing with consistent effort.

“We’re a very hard playing team,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Sometimes the energy wanes, but we don’t make excuses for it. We have to come out and play.  That’s what Brad (Stevens, Boston’s head coach) says all the time and preaches. It’s the difference between being good and being great; consistency. That’s one of the things we strive to get better at. And we have a young team. As we continue to develop, that’s one thing we’re going to get better at.”

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