The Indiana Pacers haven’t played a team with a record above .500 since they took on the Dallas Mavericks before the All-Star break. They’ve gone 5-1 during that time and will try to make it 6-1, at home against the Utah Jazz this evening.
Indiana’s easy schedule couldn’t have come at a better time. Since New Years the Pacers have been somewhat in a slump, or you could say they just haven’t seemed as dominant since then. With their win over the Boston Celtics last night, they are now 20-8 since New Years and are on a four-game winning streak.
Coming into tonight the Jazz have won two of their last three, including a big win over the Phoenix Suns, but their lone loss was a 20-point beatdown at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Utah is 21-37 on the season and in the bottom half of the Western Conference.
Paul George has returned to his MVP-ways since returning from All-Star break, averaging 26.0 points per game. The addition of Evan Turner has been a big factor in the past three games as he’s given the Pacers a nice offensive boost off the bench, averaging 12.6 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Indiana native Gordon Hayward is leading the Jazz with 15.9 points per game this season. Rookie of the Year candidate Trey Burke is also having an excellent year for the Jazz, averaging 12.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game.
The Pacers defense is still the best in the league. However, since their West Coast swing at the end of January, Indiana’s average points given up has risen from 88.0 to 91.1 and they’ve only held four out of their 13 opponents under 90 since that time. Luckily the Jazz only average 94.8 ppg, so the Pacers should have no problem holding them under 90.
Back-to-backs have not been kind to the Pacers this season, but they are 2-0 at home in the second game, 28-3 at home on the season and 31-4 against team below .500. At least on paper it would appear the Pacers have this game already in the bag.