Their playoff standing tenuous at best, the Indiana Pacers don’t need to be reminded the importance of these final 11 regular-season games.
That’s what they get anyway. Head coach Frank Vogel is mindful not to dwell on the situation daily. But a reminder of the obvious is considered necessary.
The Pacers stayed in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a 92-84 Thursday home victory over the depleted New Orleans Pelicans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Rookie forward Myles Turner scored 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds on his 20th birthday.
It helps that New Orleans didn’t have its best player in center Anthony Davis, among others. Just eight players suited up for the Pelicans, whose lost season dropped to 26-45.
Indiana improves to 38-33, a half game ahead of the Detroit Pistons, who have won four in a row. Chicago (36-34) is just a game and a half back in ninth place. The top eight earn playoff spots.
“We try not to worry about it,” center Ian Mahinmi said after a Monday home win over Philadelphia, the NBA’s worst team. “Obviously we are aware of the East and how everybody is close to each other.
“You’ve got to play games and you’ve got to win games. We worry about the standings at the end of the season.”
One bit of concern from this night saw three-time All-Star Paul George suffer a lower right leg contusion and exit early in the third quarter after scoring 15 points. The injury wasn’t believed to be serious, but if the Pacers are going to make any kind of noise in the postseason, a healthy George is a must.
An obvious positive in this late-season playoff push is the fact the Pacers are at home for six of the 11 remaining games. The past five games have been at home, although that translated to a 3-2 stretch. After a Saturday trip to Brooklyn, the Pacers return home for games against Houston, Chicago and Orlando.
“Every now and again I bring it up,” Vogel said of the playoff position. “I brought it up after we lost the Thunder game (Saturday) because we have aspirations of pushing ahead of the seventh spot, where we’re at.
“But we have to understand what’s in the rear-view mirror, too. Right behind us is Detroit, with an easy schedule, and Chicago is getting healthy. We’ve got to take care of our business.”
If the playoffs were today, the Pacers would play the second-seeded Toronto Raptors in the first round. The Raptors lead the season series 2-1 with one more game in Toronto.
The likelihood of the Pacers moving up to sixth seems slim. They’re three games behind in that pursuit.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.