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↑ 4 Spots
The competition has been underwhelming, but a four-game winning streak is a four-game winning streak.
The Indiana Pacers—powered by Paul George and better served by Monta Ellis’ demotion to the bench—knocked off the Bulls, Magic, Pistons and Nets during a perfect week.
This, by the way, is the beginning of a lull in Indy’s schedule strength. Of its 10 remaining January opponents, Indiana sees just two legitimate playoff teams: the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets. The Kings are on the docket twice, but they’re not scaring anyone. And other than that, it’s all lottery-bound opponents until February.
That doesn’t necessarily weigh into the Pacers’ current ranking, but it’s something to keep in mind as we evaluate them over the next four weeks.
Something else: Indy has figured out Ellis shouldn’t start. He’s come off the pine since returning from a groin injury, and the numbers suggest that’s been the proper course all along. The Pacers’ most used starting lineup—Jeff Teague, Ellis, Paul George, Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner—owns a minus-2.9 net rating.
Slot Glenn Robinson III into Ellis’ spot and the number jumps to plus-9.1. Make it C.J. Miles, and it’s plus-10.6.
Pretty simple math, right?