The Indiana Pacers hope the current trend continues for just one more game as they work on holding a playoff positon in the Eastern Conference when they host the Utah Jazz on Monday. The Pacers have alternated wins and losses over their last 13 contests and are coming off a disparaging 116-91 setback at Toronto on Sunday in which they were pounded 51-33 on the boards.
Indiana is sixth in the East - 1 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Detroit with 13 contests remaining (seven at home) - and will need another big effort from Paul George, who is averaging 26.4 points this month. The Jazz, who occupy fourth place in the Western Conference, look to get their offense going again after averaging 84.5 points while losing their last two contests. Utah’s fourth-leading scorer, Rodney Hood (knee) has missed the last two contests and is questionable for Monday, while All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward is just 9-of-30 in that span. The Jazz knocked off Indiana 109-100 on Jan. 21 as George Hill scored 30 points and Hayward added 27 for their third straight win in the series.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ROOT (Utah), FSN Indiana
ABOUT THE JAZZ (43-27): Utah leads the league in scoring defense (96.3 points) but gave up 34 points in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss at Chicago and has been outscored 58-38 in the final 12 minutes of the last two games. Hayward and Hill average almost 40 points combined, but Utah is missing both Hood (13.1 points) and Derrick Favors (9.6) while point guard Shelvin Mack (ankle) also is questionable. Center Rudy Gobert (13.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, league-high 2.5 blocks) continues to produce with six double-doubles in his last seven contests.
ABOUT THE PACERS (35-34): George, who is averaging 22.4 points after scoring 18 on Sunday, always is going to be the focal point for the offense but will need some help if Indiana is going to make an impact down the stretch. Point guard Jeff Teague is just 15-of-45 shooting over his last four games while center Myles Turner has scored a total of nine points over his last two, but the duo averages almost 30 points per contest. Small forward C.J. Miles also has struggled of late, averaging 7.6 points on 14-of-39 shooting over his last five games.
1. Utah G Joe Ingles is averaging 13 points over the last four games - more than six above his season mark.
2. The Pacers, who own a 24-10 record at home, are 4-11 in the second game of back-to-back sets this campaign.
3. Gobert has recorded a block in 38 straight contests, the longest streak in the league this season.
PREDICTION: Pacers 103, Jazz 97