Sunday, the No. 5 seed Indiana Pacers put a hurting on the No. 4 seed Cleveland Cavaliers. Many expect the Cavs to make a fourth-consecutive run to the NBA Finals, and Cleveland is heavily favored against Indiana. Nonetheless, Victor Oladipo and the Pacers claimed Game 1 easily.
The Pacers won, 98-80, after pulling away with a 25-15 fourth-quarter margin. The Pacers’ go-to guy was ready for the big moment. Oladipo put up a monster stat line: 32 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Seemingly every time the Cavs threatened, Oladipo quickly answered.
Not that long ago, however, his NBA future looked uncertain. Would he be a career role player? After Oladipo was traded to the Pacers along with Domanatas Sabonis in exchange for Paul George, many wrote off the deal as a heist. They thought Oklahoma City was the clear winner.
Needless to say, that no longer looks like the case. George has been solid in OKC, too, and though it is not yet clear if he will re-sign, the deal looks like a win-win.
This has been a homecoming of sorts for Oladipo, who played college basketball at Indiana. In a new post on The Players’ Tribune, Oladipo shares an emotional letter reflecting on his journey and addressing the Indiana basketball community.
“(Sabonis) was in the trade to the Pacers with me, but we’d also been together since pretty much the moment he got drafted by the Magic in 2016,” Oladipo writes. “We got traded together to OKC. Now to Indy. So I knew Doma wouldn’t want me to sugarcoat anything, but I had to check in with him — let him know what I was thinking. I texted him what I knew was true: I promise, if you win here in Indiana, they’ll embrace you like no other.”
Oladipo goes on to reflect on his time in Bloomington, where he “had some confidence issues early on.” His time there, he says, “changed me” both as a player and person.
Oladipo seems thrilled to be back in Indiana. He closes the piece rallying the Pacers’ fan base.
“The rest of the league might have forgotten about us, but you haven’t,” he writes. “Forget what the standings say. Forget the MVP race. Enough with all of that. We know who we’re playing for. You know what this team’s about. We’re ready to make a run in these playoffs. Right now.”
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