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SAD NEWS: pacers reacted to lakers with no Anthony Davis LeBron James is a flop

INDIANAPOLIS — NBA legend and All-Time leading scorer LeBron James had high praise for Indiana Pacers point guard T.J. McConnell this week on his Mind the Game podcast with JJ Redick. In fact, McConnell was the first player that James mentioned in the entire conversation.

“One of my favorite players in the NBA right now is T.J. McConnell,” James said as the opening line to this week’s episode of his new podcast. “T.J. McConnell… he’s like Draymond [Green] as a point guard.”

Redick, a former NBA player who had a 15-year career, chimed in and agreed with the praise for McConnell. “There’s certain guys, they check into the game and it changes the flow of the game,” Redick said of the Pacers guard. “Payton Pritchard is like that. Ish Smith is like that.”

It was high praise for the 32-year old, who is currently in the midst of the best scoring stretch of his career. McConnell is currently averaging 14.3 points per game across his last 19 outings while adding more than five assists per game in that span. He has canned 57.7% of his shots in that nearly 20-game sample. His offensive output has been electric.

Across that 19-game stretch, McConnell and the Pacers have battled LeBron and the Lakers twice. The first of the two came in Los Angeles, and the backup floor general had 17 points on 8/15 shooting for Indiana. He added seven assists, and the Pacers outscored the Lakers by seven in his minutes despite a five-point defeat.

The second outing — a victory in Indianapolis — saw McConnell finish with 16 points on 11 shot attempts. He added three assists, and the Pacers once again did well in his minutes by playing the Lakers to an even draw. He has played well against essentially everyone recently, but it’s no surprise that James has such respect for McConnell right now given those performances.

“I saw it. Obviously very humbling,” McConnell said Thursday after a Pacers practice of LeBron’s comments. “Him noticing what we’re doing here. All of it wouldn’t be possible without my teammates.”

It’s hard to imagine where the blue and gold would be without McConnell since the All-Star break. His scoring uptick, especially with Bennedict Mathurin sidelined, has been vital for his team’s success. And he’s doing it without having his passing numbers take much of a hit. McConnell can both run the second unit and play alongside stars, which makes him a versatile piece.

“I’m just letting the game come to me and I’m finding lanes to get to the basket, get to my spots,” McConnell said of his teammates trusting him recently.

On top of his elevated play of late, McConnell has been an off-court leader all season long. That’s something star Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton was quick to point out on Thursday. The veteran is more than just an on-court weapon, he’s an important locker room voice.

“That’s pretty cool. It’s hard not to love T.J.’s game, especially the last couple of months, what he’s been doing. He’s been amazing,” Haliburton said of James and Redick’s comments. “He’s one of, if not the, best backup point guards in the league. I’m very thankful to have that on my off nights, thankful to have a guy I can play alongside off the bench as well.”

Indiana has a +17.6 net rating with both point guards on the floor. They have been a lethal combination, albeit in limited minutes. The Pacers very rarely don’t have at least one of the floor generals on the court.

McConnell is averaging 10.1 points and 5.4 assists per game this season. His Pacers next play tomorrow night when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road with a playoff berth on the line.

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