NEW YORK — Last week, general manager Kevin Pritchard was pondering ways to improve the Indiana Pacers. As the trade deadline came and went, no moves were made.
Then the Pacers justified the lack inactivity with two more victories and continued a strong push toward the All-Star break.
The Pacers hope to get one more win before the break Wednesday night when they visit the struggling Brooklyn Nets.
Indiana (32-25) is a season-high seven games over .500 after a 97-91 victory at Boston on Friday and a 121-113 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday. The Pacers are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 13-6 since falling to .500 with a five-game skid since Dec. 26-Jan. 3.
Before Indiana’s latest win, Pritchard spoke about how chemistry influenced his decision-making especially after several players urged him to keep the team together.
“They feel like they are overachieving and had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Pritchard told reporters before Sunday’s game. “They wanted to have the opportunity to finish this out and try to get into the playoffs. That carried a lot of weight with me.”
Then he watched Victor Oladipo scored 30 points on 10 of 24 shooting, continuing his spectacular season after coming over from Oklahoma City for Paul George.
Oladipo is averaging a career-best 24.4 points. Since returning from missing four games because of a knee injury, he is averaging 23.4 points on 48.9 percent shooting in his last 18 games.
After the game, GM Chad Buchanan chimed in on the team’s group text to celebrate the win and remind them more needs to be done.
“We were just excited they decided to keep this thing together and let us keep getting better,” Pacers forward Thaddeus Young told reporters. “Right after the game, Chad texted us and said, ‘Great win. But it’s not over. We still have one game before the All-Star break,’ and we all responded right then and there. It’s like I said, this is one of the most unified teams I’ve ever been a part of.”
During this 19-game stretch, the Pacers are allowing 101.7 points and 31.2 percent 3-point shooting. Offensively, they are averaging 106.6 points and shooting 49.1 percent.
Besides Oladipo, others played well Sunday.
Former Nets forward Bojan Bogdanovic scored 20 points and is averaging 20 points and shooting 54.3 percent (50 percent from 3-point range) in his last six. Young added 18 and 11 rebounds, giving him a double-double in consecutive games for the first time all season.
The Pacers will be looking to be the third straight team to open a double-digit lead after the opening quarter against the Nets. In losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers, the Nets trailed by 12 after the opening quarter.
On Saturday, the Nets overcame a 28-point deficit, briefly took a four-point lead before shooting 2 of the 18 the rest of the way in a 139-129 double-overtime loss to New Orleans. Two nights later, the Nets never recovered from the slow start, falling behind by 23 in an eventual 114-101 loss to Los Angeles.
The Nets (19-39) are a win shy of last season’s total in coach Kenny Atkinson’s first season. The wins are coming infrequently however as they enter Wednesday on a season-high six-game losing streak.
Brooklyn also is 1-10 since Spencer Dinwiddie’s game-winning shot in Detroit on Jan. 21.
The average margin of defeat in the last 10 losses games has been 11.6. In this 11-game stretch, Brooklyn is allowing 112.1 points per game on 48.3 percent shooting and offensively the Nets are averaging 102.4 points on 43.7 percent shooting.
“Obviously, we’re all frustrated right now,” Atkinson said. “It’s a tough time. This is a tough stretch we’re going through but we have one more game before the All-Star break.
“I told the guys, let’s put our energy into getting one against Indiana. A good Indiana team, but we’re at home. It would be a good thing for our morale to get one before the All-Star break, so we go in with some positive feelings.”
The Nets will attempt to head into the break with some positivity without Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert.
Hollis-Jefferson averages 6.5 rebounds and will miss a 10th straight game with a right groin injury. The Nets are 2-10 without Hollis-Jefferson.
LeVert will miss his fourth straight game with a right knee injury and his eighth game overall.
Without Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert, the Nets are hoping to get another big game from Allen Crabbe. Crabbe scored 16 points Monday and is averaging 25.7 points in his last three games.
Indiana has won six straight from Brooklyn and 14 of the last 18 meetings. On Dec. 23, the Pacers overcame a 19-point deficit by getting 38 points from Oladipo in a 123-119 overtime win.