Pacers win 3rd straight, hand Nets 7th straight loss
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By ADRY TORRES
NEW YORK (AP) The Indiana Pacers were not expected to be in this position.
After trading one of the best two-way players in Paul George last summer, Indiana was widely predicted to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Instead, the Pacers head to the All-Star break just a half-game out of fourth place.
Victor Oladipo, one of the main pieces acquired for George in the deal with Oklahoma City, downplayed his new club's success after scoring 15 of his 25 points in the second half to lead Indiana past the Brooklyn Nets 108-103 on Wednesday night.
"Nothing. We ain't accomplish anything," the first-time All-Star said. "Got a lot more work to do. A lot more things to get done. It's great, don't get me wrong. You know, 33 tough wins in the NBA is tough. It's nothing. It's just one half of the season."
Oladipo, who was selected as a reserve, will be in Los Angeles this weekend to suit up alongside George, who was chosen as an injury replacement on LeBron James' squad.
Joseph, who was part of the 2014 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, echoed Oladipo's sentiments about getting too excited after improving their record to 33-25.
"It doesn't mean nothing yet until playoffs time comes, until 82 games," he said. "We go trip off after the break, then it doesn't mean nothing. We just got to stay mentally prepared, especially coming back from the break."
Indiana could have starting point guard Darren Collison back after the All-Star break. Collinson underwent arthroscopic surgery in his left knee last week.
Allen Crabbe scored 23 points for the Nets, who went into the break with their seventh straight loss.
Oladipo, a favorite for Most Improved Player honors, tried to put the Nets away by himself, scoring nine straight points to give the Pacers a 67-61 advantage midway through the third quarter before Brooklyn answered to take a 79-73 lead heading into the final period.
The Nets led 95-93 after Crabbe's 3-pointer with 4:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, but their offense sputtered, missing eight shots during a four-minute stretch.
"I think we got the shots we wanted and we missed some. We had some costly turnovers," Crabbe said. "It's frustrating . We keep putting ourselves in a good situation to win and we come up short."
The Pacers, who entered the day sixth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, went on a 6-0 run to take a 99-95 lead after Turner's free throws with 2:17 left in regulation.
The Nets got within two points with 1:04 to go after Spencer Dinwiddie hit a pair of free throws, but Indiana scored five straight points, capped with 26 seconds left.
Pacers: Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson each had 13 points. ... Indiana outrebounded the Nets 52-44. ... Bojan Bogdanovic, a former Net who was traded to Washington before last season's trade deadline, chipped in 14 points.
Nets: C Jahlil Okafor did not play due to tightness in his left calf ... Russell is the first Nets player to notch 15+ points and 5+ assists off the bench in three straight games since Orlando Woolridge (1986-87).
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Oladipo remained tight-lipped over his plans for the Slam Dunk Contest this Saturday night.
The 25-year-old, who competed as a rookie at the 2015 All-Star weekend, is trying to give Indiana a second straight winner after Glenn Robinson III last year.
"Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the day of," Oladipo said with a grin when asked about when he would start thinking about the competition, which also features Larry Nance Jr. and rookies Donovan Mitchell and Dennis Smith Jr.
Pacers: Host the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 23.
Nets: Visit the Charlotte Hornets on Feb. 22.
More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
Updated February 14, 2018