Indiana’s latest win came with Paul George playing limited minutes, and more immediate success might require the Pacers to do some of the same.
George is expected to play through an upper respiratory infection in Wednesday night’s visit from Dallas, but the Mavericks weren’t even able to handle the Pacers entirely without George last season when the emerging Monta Ellis was on their side.
George, who’s among the league leaders at 26.5 points per game, played 24 minutes in Monday’s 106-90 home win over Toronto, scoring 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting. He’s been limited to a 17.3-point average on 34.8 percent shooting in his last three games, but coach Frank Vogel said the illness is something that developed Tuesday morning and caused him to miss practice.
"He just woke up with a respiratory infection, something in his lungs," Vogel said. "He should be fine for (Wednesday). … This is a winter chest cold."
Ellis had 18 points against the Raptors and has averaged 17.7 in his last three games after entering that span at 11.6 in his first 20 games with his new team heading into his first game against his old. The greater relief might have been a defensive effort in which the Pacers limited the Raptors to 36.7 percent shooting after a 1-4 span in which Indiana gave up 115.4 points on 49.4 percent shooting.
"The biggest thing was we got a win," said Ellis, who spent the previous two seasons in Dallas. "Hopefully, we can string some wins together while we’re back at home and get this thing back on the winning track."
Individually, it’s C.J. Miles whom Vogel credits most with helping the team transition back into an offense based around George’s strengths this season. Miles had 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the win over Toronto.
"He’s maybe been the most vital guy in this transition because of his willingness to guard the fours and play the four offensively and allow Paul George to maintain his natural three-man, small forward position but still benefit from the offensive space that we can create by having a fourth shooter or playmaker out there," Vogel said. "So C.J. has been maybe the most vital guy."
The Pacers (14-9) won both meetings last season and have taken five of the last seven. Miles had a game-high 28 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 5 of 6 from 3-point range in a 104-99 home win over Dallas on March 29.
The Mavericks (14-11) ended a two-game losing streak with Monday’s 104-94 home win over Phoenix. Deron Williams had 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting after missing Saturday’s loss to Washington. The point guard, who’s taken on some of the backcourt scoring load left by Ellis, has averaged 19.8 points in six games this month.
They’ve also seen more from fellow guard Raymond Felton, who has started seven straight games and averaged 12.6 points in five straight of reaching double figures.
Dallas is still looking for such consistency from Chandler Parsons, who scored 17 points in a season-high 28 minutes Monday. The small forward has been limited this season as he works his way back from offseason knee surgery. Progress has been slow with Parsons reaching double figures four times, though he’s topped 25 minutes three times in his last five games after being held under that in each of his first 13.
"It’s all about confidence right now," said Parsons, who scored 27 in the March loss in Indianapolis. "I am going to be rusty. I’m going to miss some shots and go through some slumps. I just got to stick with it."