Victor Oladipo

All-Star says Fultz will 'be a problem' when healthy

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All-Star says Fultz will 'be a problem' when healthy

Sixers fans are yearning to see what Victor Oladipo has witnessed for years: Markelle Fultz play basketball.

The Pacers' All-Star guard began watching Fultz when the Sixers' rookie was a freshman at Oladipo’s alma mater, DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. 

Oladipo, six years Fultz’s senior, related to Fultz in how he “kind of came out of nowhere.” He observed Fultz progress from fighting to make the varsity team to becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

“He has all the talent in the world,” Oladipo said Tuesday before the Pacers’ 101-98 win over the Sixers. "Once he gets to a 100 percent and healthy, he's going to be a problem." 

That display of talent has been put on hold as Fultz deals with a right shoulder injury, one that has hindered him from looking like that rising star Oladipo had seen. Fultz has missed all but four games his rookie year, averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists. There still is no definitive decision on whether or not he will play again this season. 

Oladipo offered a glimpse into what the basketball world can expect when Fultz is back to his old self. 

“[I know] how versatile he is,” Oladipo said. “He can score the ball. He can get people involved. He does a great job in transition of getting in the open floor and being creative. The sky's the limit when he gets healthy.”

Fultz has veteran go-tos on the Sixers, and one in Oladipo as well. Back in 2016, Fultz was quoted as saying, “I always looked up to Victor Oladipo.” Oladipo said he will be there for the 19-year-old Fultz any time he wants advice or help. 

"Our high school is a cult,” Oladipo said. “It's more than just a high school. It's a brotherhood. So I look at him as my little brother."

Sixers a physical object on Pacers' playoff radar

Sixers a physical object on Pacers' playoff radar

BOX SCORE

If the Sixers face the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, get ready for a physical battle. The Pacers will be doing just that.

Tuesday’s meeting in mid-March was a potential postseason preview with the Pacers (40-28) and Sixers (36-30) ranked third and sixth, respectively, in the Eastern Conference. 

The Pacers made a statement with their 101-98 win (see observations)

“We try to set examples early,” Lance Stephenson said. “We ain't no jokes. We're coming after you.” 

The Pacers have been keeping an eye on the Sixers as they fight to rise in the standings. The Sixers are chasing a coveted top-four seed to secure home-court advantage. The Pacers, who are 23-12 at home compared to 16-17 on the road, are in the same battle. 

“Most definitely, you've got to have your hard hat on when you play against these boys, especially here at home, because they're a physical team,” Al Jefferson said. “I know if we do get a chance to play them in the first [round], it's going to be a physical series.”

Both teams have turned heads this season. The Pacers looked more like a lottery team than a playoff contender after trading Paul George to the Thunder. That is, before Victor Oladipo kicked off his breakout season and the Pacers clicked far beyond expectations. 

The Sixers had the potential to make the playoffs, but battling for home court, that’s playing at a different level of basketball. 

“They're a young team that plays hard,” Myles Turner said. “I feel like they've used a lot of fuel over the past couple of years as not being like a relevant team to kind of fuel their play this year.”

The Pacers won the regular-season series, 2-1. The Sixers triumphed in their first meeting Nov. 3 in Philadelphia thanks to 31 points from JJ Redick and a triple-double from Ben Simmons. The Pacers spoiled Joel Embiid’s first career back-to-back set with a balanced team effort Feb. 3 in Indianapolis. Tuesday’s game came down to the wire as 21 turnovers stifled the Sixers in a chippy matchup (see story)

The Pacers have had enough of a sample size to know what to anticipate in a postseason series. Jefferson noted the balance of rising young talent and experienced veterans. Former Sixer Thaddeus Young pointed out specifically the impact of Simmons’ size mismatch and passing abilities as well as Embiid’s versatility and floor spacing. 

“They're just a resilient team. They fight each and every game and they continue to play hard,” Young said. “That's what makes them tough. They've done a very, very good job of putting the team together. Brett Brown is a damn good coach.”

With only four games separating the third seed from the eighth in the Eastern Conference, it is far too soon to tell where the Sixers will end up in the standings. The Pacers are using Tuesday's win as a learning experience in case they are matched up.

"They always play physical," Stephenson said. "You've just got to stay poised and play your game. But they're a great team. I like how they play together. So we just pulled it out tonight." 

Oladipo's 38 points lead Pacers to overtime win

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Oladipo's 38 points lead Pacers to overtime win

INDIANAPOLIS — Victor Oladipo dug the Indiana Pacers out of a hole again.

He scored 38 points and was perfect from the free-throw line, helping the Indiana Pacers escape with a 123-119 overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.

"For whatever reason, it was tough for us in the first half," Oladipo said. "In the second half, things started going our way. We picked it up and played at a high level on both ends."

Myles Turner had 23 points and nine rebounds and tied his career high with six blocks, and Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 17 points and six rebounds for the Pacers (19-14), who came back from down 19 to take an 85-84 lead on Lance Stephenson's free throw with 8:29 remaining in regulation.

Spencer Dinwiddle led the Nets (12-20) and tied his career high with 26 points. He made three free throws with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 111 and force overtime (see full recap).

Nuggets stop Warriors' 11-game winning streak
OAKLAND, Calif. — Warriors coach Steve Kerr didn't see much passion from his team Saturday.

Golden State better find some fast for Christmas Day, when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come to town for a prime-time holiday rematch of the past three NBA Finals.

Gary Harris scored 19 points to lead a balanced Denver offense and the Nuggets stopped the Warriors' 11-game winning streak with a second impressive road victory in two nights, beating Golden State 96-81.

"It didn't feel like we were into it emotionally tonight. Sometimes after a long winning streak, whatever reason, you let your guard down a little bit. It wasn't there," Kerr said. "The biggest concern for me tonight, I didn't see a lot of joy. ... We weren't having much fun." (see full recap).

Schroder scores 27 in second half as Hawks beat Mavericks
ATLANTA — Dennis Schroder matched his career high with 33 points, including 27 in the second half, to help the Atlanta Hawks beat the Dallas Mavericks 112-107 on Saturday night in a matchup of last-place teams.

After missing Friday night's loss at Oklahoma City with a sprained ankle, Schroder hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1:21 left to put Atlanta ahead 110-107.

Ersan Ilyasova added 19 points and seven rebounds for the Hawks (8-25), who got 13 points off the bench from rookie John Collins and won for just the second time in eight games.

Harrison Barnes led the Mavericks (9-25) with 22 points. Dirk Nowitzki scored 18, and J.J. Barea had 15 points and 12 assists off the bench as Dallas lost for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap)

Westbrook's triple-double leads Thunder to win over Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder got the kind of night they envisioned when they brought in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to join reigning MVP Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Thunder won their fourth in a row with a 103-89 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

Utah had no answer for Westbrook, George and Anthony, who were playing the second night of a back-to-back.

"We're just finding it," Anthony said. "Everybody's doing what they're supposed to do. Everybody's playing their game. We're not playing as tense and thinking so much out there on the basketball court as we were a couple weeks ago. The flow of the game is starting to become better and better for everybody. Guys are starting to be comfortable with what's being asked of them and kind of just accepting it." (see full recap).