The Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks have turned it up a notch with the postseason picture starting to come into view.
The Pacers and Mavericks look to improve their respective playoff positioning at the other’s expense on Sunday night when they meet in Dallas.
Indiana dropped a 112-103 decision to the Mavericks on Feb. 3 during a season-high six-game losing skid. The Pacers have since turned the corner and won seven of their last nine contests heading into the finale of their five-game road trip.
“We’re a very talented group, and our depth is one of our strengths,” said Victor Oladipo, who returned from a two-game absence due to a sore knee to score 16 points in 26 minutes during Indiana’s 108-102 victory at the Chicago Bulls on Friday.
Pacers coach Nate McMillan has been open about his minutes restriction with Oladipo after the All-Star was sidelined for more than a year due to right knee surgery to a tendon.
“The first half he looked really good. Second half, he looked really tight because he’s sitting 20 minutes. That’s hard to come back in, get yourself loose,” McMillan said. “Being off a couple games, we just can’t immediately go back to playing him 30-plus minutes. We have to be cautious.”
Indiana’s injury concerns don’t just end with Oladipo, though. The Pacers played without two of their top three scorers in T.J. Warren (left leg) and Malcolm Brogdon (left hip) as well as the team’s best 3-point shooter in Doug McDermott (toe).
Domantas Sabonis was front and center, however. The 6-foot-10 power forward collected 24 points and 12 rebounds to tie Troy Murphy’s club record (2008-09) with his 49th double-double this season.
One of Sabonis’ double-doubles came at the expense of Dallas last month. He recorded 26 points and 12 boards.
While Indiana is battling the Philadelphia 76ers for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, Dallas resides a half-game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for sixth place in the West. The Mavericks have won seven of their last 10 contests to move a season-best 14 games over .500.
Kristaps Porzingis continued his sterling five-game run on Friday with 26 points and 11 rebounds in Dallas’ 121-96 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
While Porzingis is averaging a robust 30.0 points and 12.2 rebounds in that stretch, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he was impressed at what the 7-3 power forward-center is doing at both ends of the floor.
“Everyone’s caught up in the offensive stats,” Carlisle said, “but for me it’s a combination of his offensive production and what he’s doing defensively and rebounding. It’s ridiculous.”
Porzingis erupted for a season high-tying 38 points, matched a career high with six 3-pointers and added 12 rebounds in Dallas’ victory over Indiana last month.
The Mavericks are not without injuries of their own, including some starters. Dorian Finney-Smith (hip) sat out Friday’s game while Seth Curry (ankle) exited the contest after scoring 15 points in the first half.
Tim Hardaway Jr., who is dealing with an illness, had 25 points in the previous game versus the Pacers.
–Field Level Media