Motivated Pacers look to prolong Mavericks' skid
The Indiana Pacers were mostly written off after star guard Victor Oladipo was lost for the season in late January.
And losing their first four games without him seemed to punctuate the notion that they'd quickly drop down the Eastern Conference standings.
But that hasn't happened as the resilient Pacers (40-21) have managed to right the ship, notwithstanding Monday's testy road loss to the Detroit Pistons. The defeat should have them in a determined mood Wednesday night to pull out the final game of a three-game road trip against the sputtering Dallas Mavericks.
A victory at Dallas would move the Pacers, 9-2 in their last 11 games, back to 20 games over .500, a mark they hit for the first time this season at Washington to start this road trip, as they seek to hang on to a top-four spot in the East.
"It's a lot at stake right now in terms of seeding moving forward," said Pacers guard Darren Collison. "The sense of urgency has already picked up."
Collison, who never quite fit together with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle during his one season in Dallas (2012-13), joins two other Pacers who might have a little extra motivation when they take the floor in Dallas.
Center Myles Turner is from the Dallas area, and in six games against his hometown team, he's averaged 19.2 points on 58.9 percent shooting, plus 8.2 rebounds. The former two figures are each his best against any team.
"As crazy as this sounds, I've never really thought about it," Turner said when asked by a Dallas radio station last summer if he'd consider playing for the Mavs. "Some people have asked me here and there, but I've never really took the time to think about it. All my family and friends are here, but at the same time, it makes it more special when I'm on the road and I get to come back here and play against the Dallas Mavericks and have them come to the game."
Guard Wesley Matthews will also be making something of a homecoming. Dallas traded Matthews prior to the deadline to the New York Knicks, along with point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and center DeAndre Jordan, for 7-foot-3 big man Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks bought out Matthews, who then signed with the Pacers to help add scoring punch that was lost with Oladipo's injury.
In five games with Indiana, Matthews has averaged 13.6 points, and has put together three strong games in a row, scoring 24, 14 and 14 points while going 12 of 24 from beyond the arc.
He'd like to replicate that success against the Mavs, who are looking to snap out of a five-game losing streak. Rookie sensation Luka Doncic returned to the lineup in Monday's loss at the Los Angeles Clippers following a two-game absence due to a sore right knee. In both games he missed, the Mavs' offense completely bogged down.
There had been speculation that Doncic, who turns 20 on Thursday, had hit the rookie wall. He came back strong in L.A., producing his fourth triple-double of the season with 28 points on 7 of 12 shooting, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
"I don't know the exact stats and history compared to other guys that had high impact as rookies, but he's done a lot of great things," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters prior to Monday's game. "When he's not out there ... we certainly miss him."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 26, 2019