Victor Oladipo missed 370 days and 82 games with a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee last January, but made his long-awaited return to the Pacers lineup on Wednesday night against the Bulls.
Oladipo did not start, checking into the game to a massive ovation in the middle of the first quarter, and was on a minutes restriction as he worked his way back into game shape, so he was limited to just 21 minutes of action.
He, understandably, looked like a player shaking off some rust for much of the night — although he dished out some tremendous passes, some of which were finished for assists and others weren’t — scoring nine points to go along with four assists and two rebounds.
It wasn’t a sensational performance overall, but in the closing seconds of the game, the player that led the league in clutch scoring a year ago proved that time off hadn’t taken away his confidence in crunch time. With the Pacers trailing 102-99 with 15 seconds to play, Indiana dialed up an iso for Oladipo on the left wing and rather than taking Chandler Hutchinson off the bounce, he calmly lined up a 28-footer to tie it, giving a little shimmy after the make.
The Bulls were unable to get a shot off on the final possession, after Zach LaVine appeared to get fouled but didn’t get a call before losing the ball and the game was sent to overtime. Oladipo, while he still had some time left on his minutes restriction, didn’t play in the extra period, but Malcolm Brogdon and company finished off the comeback win without him, outclassing Chicago in the extra frame.
Oladipo’s return was methodical as we probably should have expected, but the punctuation at the end of it reminded everyone of why the Pacers figure to be a dangerous team in the East once he’s back fully.