Four wins in the last five games give the Indiana Pacers a modest reason for optimism as they head into the NBA All-Star break.
The Pacers took advantage of the New Orleans Pelicans without injured star Anthony Davis in a 106-93 road rout Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center.
It wasn’t as close as the final score indicated as the Pelicans (27-26) were blown out for the third consecutive game without their All-Star big man, who suffered a shoulder sprain Saturday.
After all the injuries the Pacers (21-33) have endured this season, including not having two-time All-Star Paul George, they didn’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of an opponent without its best player. Indiana led by 14 after the first quarter, by 22 at halftime and by 29 after three quarters.
Point guard George Hill’s presence in the starting lineup for the fifth consecutive game continued the team’s recent improvement on the offensive end. The Pacers have scored more than 100 points in each of their four wins in the five-game stretch.
The Pacers’ lone loss in this five-game stretch should have been a win — they blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 95-93 home setback to San Antonio Monday.
Hill and forward David West each scored a game-high 17 points. Hill had nine assists and West seven as the Pacers combined for 28 assists. Hill sank four 3-pointers.
Eleven of the 13 Pacers who played scored as the visitors shot 53 percent (40-of-75). They hit 9-of-20 (45 percent) from 3-point range.
Backup center Ian Mahinmi returned from a sprained ankle. He scored just two points but grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
The Pelicans shot 46 percent (34-of-74).
The Pacers hit the weekend break tied with the Detroit Pistons for 11th in the Eastern Conference, two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
After the All-Star break, the Pacers return to action Feb. 20 at Philadelphia (12-41), then play nine of the next 11 games at home at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.