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INDIANAPOLIS – With Victor Oladipo back home getting ready for his return next week, the Pacers began their first western road trip of the season with a 1-1 start on Sunday and Monday.

The Pacers started their western trip by winning in Denver for the first time in over a decade.

With Denver (29-13) down 3 starters, the Pacers took advantage with another strong close to the game.

Indiana outscored Denver 41-26 in the final quarter, for the 115-107 victory.

Doug McDermott was outstanding, scoring 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting (6-of-7 from behind the arc).

Domantas Sabonis recorded his first career triple-double (22 points, 15 rebounds and 1 assists). It was the first triple-double for a Pacers player since George Hill in February 2015.

Riding the hot hands down the stretch, Nate McMillan went with McDermott and T.J. McConnell alongside Sabonis, T.J. Warren and Malcolm Brogdon to complete the comeback victory.

Monday’s back-to-back saw Indiana (28-16) get blown out by the Jazz (30-13).

The streaking Jazz were led by Donovan Mitchell (25 points) and Rudy Gobert (20 points and 14 rebounds), leading from the onset, running away for a 118-88 victory.

Issues on both ends of the floor led to a rare game for Indiana this season in which the starters did not finish out the game.

The leading scorer for Indiana was at 12 points, with Myles Turner and Aaron Holiday reaching that number. Malcolm Brogdon was 2-of-11 from the floor, as Indiana shot 7-of-26 from three.

Indiana was outrebounded 53-30 by the Jazz, an ugly number for Nate McMillan to look at.

Former Pacer Georges Niang had 15 points off the bench for the Jazz. Indy native Mike Conley added 14 points.

Utah has now won 17 of their last 19 games.

 

Three Things Learned

-Attacking Rim Protectors: The fact that Indiana was outrebounded significantly against the Jazz and dominated in the paint isn’t shocking. But it was disappointing to see the Pacers inability to try and attack a Utah team that relies so much on Rudy Gobert sitting at the rim. With versatile big guys in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis trying to move Gobert out of the paint, that didn’t open things up offensively. From the perimeter, the Pacers shot just 7-of-26 from behind the arc. When you are playing such defensive-minded centers, you can’t have those types of nights from three. It’s pretty rare to see a team get 21 turnovers (like Utah did on Monday), yet still win by 30. Expecting a win for the Pacers on Monday was unlikely, but they still need to learn from these games against full-strength playoff teams.

-McDermott Living Up To Contract: The first season for Doug McDermott in Indiana didn’t see the sharpshooter live up to his 3-year, $21-milllion deal. He certainly has this season. McDermott is shooting a career-best 44.0 percent from three, and is also averaging a career-high 10.0 points per game. On more than one occasion (including the win over Denver), it was McDermott closing out the game. He’s become such a valuable weapon alongside T.J. McConnell and the reserve group. When you have Domantas Sabonis on the floor with McDermott, as well, that’s one guy you cannot help off of, or else he’ll make you pay. McDermott’s presence isn’t just as a dead-eye shooter. He’s done a great job of knowing teams are trying to run him off the line, taking advantage of overplays in scoring inside the arc.

-1-1 Split To Start Trip: With their two hardest games of the Western road trip behind them, the Pacers will take a 1-1 split to start the trip. Given the Nuggets were missing 3 starters on Sunday, it was important for the Pacers to get 1 of these first 2 games. Monday’s blowout to the Jazz was terrible, but it was an expected loss with how the two teams entered that contest. Now, Indiana will take on 3 teams who are all outside of the Western Conference playoff picture to finish the trip. Not only is that advantageous, it also is nice that the Pacers will not have another back-to-back in the final 3 games this trip.

 

Pacers Upcoming Schedule

-at Suns 1/22 (Wednesday)

-at Warriors 1/24 (Friday)

-at Trailblazers 1/25 (Sunday)

-Bulls 1/29 (Wednesday)

-Knicks 2/1 (Saturday)