Jazz pose next test for high-flying Pacers

Climbing to great heights also requires proving yourself in the mountains, it appears, as the Indiana Pacers will face the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on Monday night one day after playing at Denver.

The Pacers extended their winning streak to five games with a road victory against the Nuggets and now head to Utah looking to continue their run of success. It is not the easiest of back-to-backs, playing at altitude, but the Los Angeles Lakers tried it in early December and won both games.

Sunday’s victory came with Doug McDermott scoring a season-high 24 points, the first time he has been above 20 all season. Three players scored 22 points — Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Warren and Malcolm Brogdon — in the balanced attack.

The consecutive games are the openers to a five-game western swing that includes Phoenix and Golden State and concludes next weekend at Portland. When the Pacers returns home for a Jan. 29 meeting with the Chicago Bulls, Victor Oladipo is expected back after nearly a year away because of a ruptured quad tendon.

It means playing time will be adjusted soon and roles will be tweaked. And it comes with the Pacers in the midst of another upswing with six victories in their last seven games. It is a stretch that immediately followed a run of four defeats in five games.

«Our goal is to win every game. It doesn’t matter who we play,» Brogdon told reporters. «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 traveling and playing five good teams. We (have to) start strong on the back-to-back.»

The Jazz had the day off Sunday to get their place in order for their visitors. Utah actually did a little cleaning up Saturday with a solid 123-101 home victory over the Sacramento Kings. That victory came two days after their 10-game winning streak ended with a loss at New Orleans.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 30 points against the Kings, while Rudy Gobert had a season-high 28 points to go along with 15 rebounds. The Jazz led by as many as 17 in the first quarter and never looked back.

It was yet another home victory in a string of them this season. The Jazz are 16-3 and have the fewest defeats in their own building of any team in the Western Conference. The Jazz’s last home defeat came Dec. 9 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Saturday’s Jazz game also marked the return of guard Mike Conley, who was out for 19 of the last 20 games because of a left hamstring strain. He was eased into the mix, playing just 15 minutes, with three points and three assists.

«It’s not a good thing, it’s a great thing,» Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said of Conley’s return. «There is obviously going to be a period of adjustment for him. That’s normal, whether it’s conditioning or timing. But, more than anything, we’re just excited to have him back.»

–Field Level Media