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Time To Take The Indiana Pacers Seriously
This was supposed to be a lost season for the Indiana Pacers, the team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last year. The team lost starting guard Lance Stephenson in free agency to Charlotte and then was devastated when superstar forward Paul George, suffered a badly broken leg over the summer while playing in an exhibition game for Team USA. It was expected that George would miss all of the 2014-15 season and that Indiana would just tread water for a year.
However, the Pacers are the hottest team in basketball as they take a seven-game winning streak into Sunday's home matchup with Boston. The Pacers are 9-point opening Sportsbook.ag favorites with a total of just 193. That winning streak has gotten Indiana into the No. 7 seed and catching slumping Milwaukee for the No. 6.
Stuckey Stepping Up
The Pacers beat those Bucks 109-103 in overtime on Thursday. Rodney Stuckey led Indiana with 25 points off the bench, continuing his run of offensive excellence. Stuckey had the final basket of the Pacers' 9-0 overtime blitz of Milwaukee. Indiana won despite turning the ball over 20 times (tying its season high), after going 18-straight games with 15 or fewer turnovers The Pacers bench outscored Milwaukee's 52-10. The Pacers are an NBA-best 9-1 since the All-Star Break. They are 9-1 this season when Stuckey scores 20 or more points.
It's not clear if Indiana will get back center Roy Hibbert for this one. He sat out with an infection in his elbow, with Ian Mahinmi starting in his place. Coach Frank Vogel said he was hopeful it will only force Hibbert to miss one game.
As for George, last month, a report surfaced that he was going to play this Saturday the first time this season. Vogel says George is still a ways out, but George still has his eye on playing this season. Indiana could be truly scary to a top seed in the first round of the playoffs if George is back 100 percent healthy by then and in rhythm. Indiana is now the fourth-favorite at Sportsbook.ag to win the East at +2500.
Boston Also Better Than Expected
The Celtics could sneak into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed as they are playing much better of late but will be coming off the second of a back-to-back after hosting Orlando on Friday. Boston has won seven of its last 10 games entering Friday, including an impressive win over Memphis on Wednesday night (although the Grizzlies rested four of their best players. After the Pacers' win on Thursday, Luis Scola described Boston as Indiana's "biggest rival" for playoff seeding.
Boston will also be shorthanded Saturday. Point guard Isaiah Thomas is expected to miss roughly a week with bruised lower back. Boston traded for the 5-foot-9 guard at the trade deadline and he has great in his short time with the Celtics, averaging 21.4 points and 5.4 assists over his first 10 games. The Celtics and Pacers have split two meetings this season, each winning at home. The Pacers have won three straight regular season home games over the Celtics. Boston’s last win in Indianapolis came on March 6, 2013.
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