Pacers bringing rhythm to the land of Jazz

DENVER • Climbing to great heights also requires proving yourself in the mountains, it appears, with the Indiana Pacers travelling to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Jazz this morning (Singapore time).

They extended their winning run to five games with a 115-107 National Basketball Association road victory against the Nuggets on Sunday night. It is not the easiest of back-to-backs, playing at altitude, although the Los Angeles Lakers embarked on the same trip in early December and won both games.

The difference though is that the Lakers are the Western Conference leaders with a 34-8 record and among the favourites for the championship, while the Pacers (28-15) are fighting to qualify for the playoffs in the East.

They have been punching above their weight despite being without All-Star Victor Oladipo since last January owing to a knee injury, and Indiana guard Malcolm Brogdon is looking forward to the second of a five-game road swing.

After Utah, the Pacers play at the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, before ending at the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.

Brogdon said: "Our goal is to win every game. It doesn't matter who we play. We're good enough to go 5-0 on this road trip, and we believe that so that's what we preach.

"We have to start strong because as the road trip goes on, you start to get tired. We're travelling and playing five good teams. We (have to) start strong on the back-to-back."

Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis and T.J. Warren had 22 points apiece, while Doug McDermott contributed a team-high 24 points to offset a game-high 30 points from Denver's Nikola Jokic.

Once they return to their home court, things are also set to get better, with Oladipo's return pencilled in for the second straight game at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the Chicago Bulls on Jan 29.

The guard is not planning to hold back after a year-long absence from the league. "I'm not gonna ease my way into anything," Oladipo told sports website clutchpoints.com.

"I'm not gonna second-guess myself or try to take my time. I'm gonna go full throttle and I'm gonna be aggressive. I'm gonna go at dudes and I'm not gonna shy away from anything because that's not who I am."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2020, with the headline 'Pacers bringing rhythm to the land of Jazz'. Print Edition | Subscribe