Pacers forward T.J. Warren continued his reign as the king of the NBA bubble on Saturday with 39 points in Indiana’s 116-111 win over the Lakers.
Warren also hit a clutch 3 to put the Lakers away.
His outburst pushed his scoring average in Orlando to 34.8 points over five games. Outside the bubble this season, he had averaged 18.7 points per contest.
Warren’s play has kept the Pacers rolling despite the absence of Domantas Sabonis, an All-Star forward sidelined with a foot injury. While Warren has been a surprise producer to many casual NBA fans, he has always shown an ability to score from all over the court dating to his time at N.C. State. The problem has been c onsistency, not talent.
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Now in his sixth year in the league, Warren, 26, is hitting his prime. His success is head-turning but not completely out of the blue.
Here are some stats that foreshadowed Warren’s current run:
Warren is shooting 41.1 percent on 3-pointers since the start of last season while almost tripling his long-range attempts per game. At 6-8 and with a muscular build, he could always score inside and from the mid-range. Becoming a deep threat has significantly elevated his offensive potential.
Warren scored at least 30 points in five games this season before the NBA’s restart but was held under 10 points on nine occasions, keeping his overall scoring average down despite his high ceiling. In other words, his down games masked the levels he could reach when he caught fire.
Warren averaged nearly 25 points per game in his senior season at N.C. State in 2013-14. That average increased in ACC play — an impressive feat considering the tough opposition he faced. He led the nation in field goals made.