INDIANAPOLIS — TJ McConnell is the perfect veteran for the young and growing Indiana Pacers. He is a key figure for the 10-6 team thanks to his leadership off the field, he makes the team stand out with his presence.
On Monday night, however, the reserve point guard gave the team a tremendous boost on the court. McConnell finished with 19 points, ten assists, five rebounds and three steals in a win over the Orlando Magic, and the Pacers won his minutes with 22 points, a team-high. It was one of his best games with the franchise. He steered the ship all night.
“I loved his game, man,” Pacers center Isaiah Jackson said after the game. “Tonight he showed what he was working on.”
McConnell did many things throughout the game that he’s normally capable of, but he executed them perfectly and with increased frequency. He drove to the basket to show his smart finish and shot 4/4 into the lane. He threw accurate and defense-changing passes, which led to his ten assists. Eight of those dimes resulted in shots around the basket, while the other two created open three-point shots. McConnell’s passing, especially if it happened after a car ride, was great.
His defense was effective, as it has been so often this year. And he did the transition game well all night. Those are the things McConnell normally does, but he did them at an elevated level on Monday night.
What made the game particularly noteworthy for the eight-year-old pro was the atypical things he accomplished. The most eyebrow-raising addition to McConnell’s performance was the three-ball – he hit a career-best three-pointer in the win. His outside shot worked so well that he actually hit a defender with a fake shot that sent him airborne to open a fast lane for Myles Turner.
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McConnell also hit a left-hander over Bol Bol’s outstretched arms, requiring a great archery shot. McConnell looked down at his left hand in awe as he trotted down the pitch to defend himself.
“Not many people score against Bol Bol, he’s a big guy. The left-hander was crazy,” said forward Oshae Brissett of the bucket.
Everything McConnell did worked, and it improved Indiana’s entire second unit. Every bencher who was in the rotation finished with 10+ points. When all was said and done, the veteran guard led the team in minutes – the coaching staff couldn’t unseat him.
It was only the seventh time in McConnell’s career that he had 19 points in a game. Of these seven games, the experienced guard only distributed more than 10 assists in one of them before Monday. It was one of the best offensive plays of the former 76ers’ career.
“His competitiveness is contagious to everyone out there,” head coach Rick Carlisle said of McConnell after the game. “Tonight, its energy, its soreness, we needed it.”
McConnell averages just 4.7 points and 4.1 assists per game, but the stats undersell him. He’s a key figure in the Blue and Gold dressing room and his skills on the pitch make life easier for everyone. The veteran guard has boasted of the former many times this season, but Monday was easily his best game of the year in terms of goals and making the lives of his teammates better.
- Oshae Brissett puts together his best game of the season to help the Indiana Pacers beat the Toronto Raptors: ‘He’s doing it on a high level’ CLICK HERE.
- Aaron Nesmith shows his growth with career night against Orlando Magic. CLICK HERE.
- Younger Indiana Pacers players benefit from TJ McConnell’s leadership. CLICK HERE.
- Report: Los Angeles Clippers are interested in Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner. CLICK HERE.
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