A promising season for the Indiana Pacers was instantly transformed when Victor Oladipo’s leg buckled and he fell to the floor in pain.
Indiana showed earlier this season it can win without the All-Star guard, at least in the short term. Now, the third-best team in the Eastern Conference may have to push ahead without him for a much longer stretch.
Oladipo was carried off the court on a stretcher during the second quarter of the Pacers’ 110-106 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night with a serious right knee injury. He is scheduled for an MRI on Thursday.
“It is a serious injury and we’ll know more after the MRI,” coach Nate McMillan said. “We’re not going to speculate. It’s a tough situation. That kid has a beautiful spirit about him. He has always been one to try and to lift us up. We’ve got to lift him now.”
Oladipo was injured as he scrambled to defend an outlet pass to Toronto’s Pascal Siakam and crumpled to the floor awkwardly.
The severity was evident almost immediately as trainers draped a towel over the leg and players from both teams surrounded Oladipo while he was down.
No replays were shown on the video screen that stretches from free-throw line to free-throw line, and fans began chanting Oladipo’s name. When he did leave the court, Oladipo received a standing ovation and responded by waving to the crowd.
“I didn’t see what happened,” Siakam said. “Watching the replay, he stuck his leg while he was falling. That’s when he hit me. It’s just an unfortunate situation. It’s really scary, it’s tough.”
Losing Oladipo would be an enormous blow to the Pacers’ playoff hopes. He leads Indiana in scoring at 19.2 points per game and has emerged as a leader.
But after going 0-6 without Oladipo last season, the Pacers went 7-4 without their best player as he recovered from a sore right knee in November and December. And they still managed to hang on for their third straight victory Wednesday night – their first over Toronto in six tries.
“We’ve got to come together and play inspired basketball,” said Myles Turner, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds. “We can’t let this get us stuck in the mud. It’s emotional, but we have to overcome it and play.”
It didn’t take long for supportive messages to start pouring in from around the league on social media. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, Phoenix guard Devin Booker, Washington guard Bradley Beal and Oklahoma City’s Paul George were among the first to respond.
Oladipo was acquired in a trade for George in the summer of 2017.
“Prayers up VO,” George wrote on Twitter, with four sets of the praying hand emoji to emphasize his point.
Thaddeus Young had 23 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Pacers, while Darren Collison added 16 points.
Toronto was led by Serge Ibaka with 23 points and 11 rebounds and Kyle Lowry with 20 points. The Raptors again played without Kawhi Leonard, O.G. Anunoby or Jonas Valanciunas, but still made things tough for Indiana following the injury.
After jumping to a 24-16 lead at the end of one quarter, extending the margin to 30-10 early in the second and finishing the half on a 9-4 run to make it 59-47 at the half, the Pacers fended off the Raptors’ late charges.
Toronto got as close as 98-97 after Ibaka made a 5-footer with 4:20 to play. But Young answered with a three-point play and the Pacers made just enough plays down the stretch to hold on.
“It’s unfortunate,” Collison told the crowd. “We’ve got to keep going for him.”
Raptors: Six players scored in double figures. … Toronto was 12 of 39 on 3s. … The Raptors had won three straight without Anunoby, Leonard and Valanciunas. … Toronto dropped to 8-2 on the second night of back-to-backs and 11-3 this season without Leonard. … Ibaka had his seventh double-double of the season and also had three blocks. … Lowry had five rebounds and seven assists.
Pacers: Have won five of six. … Indiana improved to 22-1 when scoring 110 or more points. … Bojan Bogdanovic had 16 points and Domantas Sabonis had 12 while playing through foul trouble.
Leonard missed his fourth consecutive game to get some extra rest, but he’s expected to play Friday. The Raptors are 11-3 without Leonard.
Anunoby missed his fifth straight game for personal reasons.
Coach Nick Nurse said he hasn’t yet started considering what he’ll do with a full roster.
“I have not thought about it, though I have had a couple of people mention it,” Nurse said.
Raptors: Make the second stop on a three-game trip Friday at Houston.
Pacers: Visits Memphis on Saturday, seeking their fourth straight win over the Grizzlies.