It's not the Indiana Pacers' fault their four-game win streak has come against some of the NBA's worst teams.
The league's best team, however, hasn't found things easy in its last two games against lesser competition as it gets ready for another such matchup Sunday night at home against the Utah Jazz.
Indiana (45-13) continues to lead Miami by two games in the race for the Eastern Conference's top seed. Its latest win streak has featured two games against Milwaukee and one apiece against the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston.
The Pacers may have some cause for concern as they try to improve to 9-7 in the second half of back-to-back games. They won 101-96 over the Bucks on Thursday before trailing for a good portion of the fourth quarter in Saturday's 102-97 road victory against the Celtics.
Paul George came through with 10 of Indiana's last 12 points in Boston.
'I missed too many easy shots (early) and I told myself when it comes back around that I have to make my shots,' said George, who ended with 25. "So I just locked in my focus and my teammates found me.'
The Pacers were without George Hill, who bruised his shoulder Thursday. C.J. Watson started in his place and had seven points.
The perimeter player who had more of an impact was Evan Turner, who scored 17 off the bench in his third game with Indiana since being acquired Feb. 20 from Philadelphia.
'Evan Turner gave us a big lift throughout the whole game,' coach Frank Vogel said, 'but, in particular, down the stretch.'
Indiana is limiting opponents to an NBA-best 41.4 percent shooting and held Utah to 38.2 percent after halftime and 38 second-half points in a 95-86 victory on Dec. 4.
The Jazz (21-37) are looking to bounce back from a rough opener to their six-game trip, a 99-79 loss to Cleveland on Friday. They shot 35.0 percent for their third-worst effort of the season.
'It's the road,' coach Tyrone Corbin said. 'You've got to find out how to be ready every night. That's another thing we're still learning as we try to bring this young bunch along.'
Utah's leading scorer is fourth-year forward Gordon Hayward, who is averaging a career-high 15.9 points. Hayward is an Indiana native who played in Indianapolis in college as he helped lead Butler to the first of two straight NCAA title game appearances in 2010.
Hayward, who has totaled 21 points in three games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the Jazz, will look to fare better after averaging 12.2 points and shooting 34.1 percent in 12 games in February. He averaged 17.0 points on 41.5 percent shooting prior to last month.
"Gordon is going to keep finding his way," Corbin said. "He's making the right plays. Gordon knows we need him to play well to have a chance on the road."
Utah averages 94.8 points for the third-worst mark in the NBA and is last in the NBA with 13.2 points per game off turnovers.
The Jazz average 93.70 possessions per 48 minutes entering Saturday's play for one of the league's worst figures and getting stuck in half-court sets against the defensive-minded Pacers would clearly hamper their chances.
The Associated Press News Service
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