Looking to break out of a four-game slump, the Pacers will again be without leading scorer Victor Oladipo when they visit the Bucks on Wednesday night.
“We’ve lost a little rhythm and a little confidence,” head coach Nate McMillan said of his team’s losing streak. “We need everybody to step up, it’s not just one particular guy. We have had struggles as a team and as a unit. It starts with the group coming out.”
In an effort to shake their struggles of late, McMillan led a more up-tempo, “training camp” style practice on Tuesday, according to the head coach, which included a live, full court action.
At the conclusion of practice, center Myles Turner addressed the huddle. When asked what his message was to the team, he responded, “These past four or five games we’ve talked about doing some things better and we’re trying to do it but I just haven’t seen the progress that I want to see yet, myself included. I just had to let that be known. I think a lot of it is our intensity is down from the beginning of the season. I’m not sure if that’s an effort thing or just being tired, I don’t know what it is, but we gotta nip it in the bud.”
“I think we started the season out as hunters, and we’re the hunted right now, and we have to have that hunter mindset every game,” Turner added.
Turner took the New Year’s Eve loss to Minnesota to heart, and immediately following the team’s fourth straight loss, headed into the practice facility where he put up shots until 11 pm. The Pacers big man says Lance Stephenson came in to join him for a period of time and he also spent time talking with veteran Darren Collison.
“I was pretty upset after that game,” Turner said. “I got about 1200 – 1300 shots up. Whenever I’m depressed or I’m not in a good mindset, I’ll always just come into the gym and shoot and that’s kinda what I did that night. I’m feeling a lot better now.”
The team is evaluating everything in attempts to avoid falling to .500, and that includes shifting Lance Stephenson back to the bench. Stephenson had been starting in place of the injured Oladipo, but McMillan said he will decide ahead of Wednesday’s game rather to continue that rotation.
“When you take Lance out of that second unit, we do lose size at that guard that wing position, so we will look at everything,” McMillan said.
Oladipo has been plagued with a sore right knee and the team has struggled in his absence, with the Indiana University product averaging 24.9 points per game for the Blue and Gold. McMillan says Oladipo did not participate in team activities during practice Tuesday, however he was seen doing cardio work on an Arc Trainer while watching practice. McMillan clarified that his star guard has not suffered any setbacks in battling that lingering knee issue.
“This is what we expected,” McMillan said following Tuesday’s practice. “We said last week that we would reevaluate him this week and we did, and we decided he will not play tomorrow night.”
McMillan added that the team may look at Oladipo during in shootaround in Milwaukee, with a goal of working him in with the team Thursday and Friday, as the team prepares to host the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
The Pacers (19-18) currently sit 8th in the Eastern Conference standings, while the Bucks, who rank third in the league in field goal percentage, are the sixth-best team in the East.