The Central Division-leading Indiana Pacers continue to roll thanks to the NBA’s stingiest defense.
While a recent skid hurt the Golden State Warriors’ chances of winning the Pacific, they’ve since gotten back on track.
The Pacers try for their second five-game winning streak in a month Tuesday night against a Warriors team hoping to avoid an 11th loss in 12 visits to Indianapolis.
Indiana (35-21) has allowed 89.4 points per game on 41.3 percent shooting to rank first in the league in both categories. The Pacers have been especially stifling during their four-game run, holding opponents to an average of 80.5 points and a 33.6 percent mark from the field while winning by an average of 27.0 points.
They dominated Detroit this weekend in a home-and-home sweep. Indiana blew out the Pistons 114-82 on Friday, then held them to their fewest points this season one night later in a 90-72 road victory as Detroit missed 16 of its first 17 shots.
“Our starting unit defends as well as any I have ever been around,” said coach Frank Vogel, whose team won a season-high five straight Jan. 30-Feb. 6. “They’ve been doing this all year, and that’s a big reason for our success.”
Paul George averaging a league-high 2.4 steals since Jan. 10, had 12 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists Saturday.
After missing the first 55 games due to a knee injury, Danny Granger had two points on 1-of-10 shooting in 19 minutes off the bench in his season debut.
“He was rusty, but that’s to be expected,” Vogel said. “That’s why we aren’t throwing him out there for 40 minutes. He’s been a lot better in practices, but this was his first time at game speed in a long time.”
It’s unclear how much Vogel plans to use Granger on Tuesday. The Pacers’ perennial scoring leader in recent years is averaging 23.6 points versus Golden State - his highest mark against any team.
The Warriors (33-23), who sat 2 1/2 games behind the division-leading Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 4 before losing a season-worst six straight, have followed up that skid with three wins in a row.
After beating Phoenix and San Antonio at home, Golden State kicked off a five-game trip with Sunday’s 100-99 victory over Minnesota. Jarrett Jack posted team highs of 23 points and eight assists off the bench and David Lee recorded his league-leading 36th double-double with 22 points and 13 boards.
The Warriors came back from 16 down in the first quarter for just their fourth road win in 14 games.
“We try to have resolve,” Jack said. “Some resiliency, fight, but the one thing we respect the most of all, that coach (Mark Jackson) has been preaching since day one is effort.”
Jack, who had a season-high 30 points and 10 assists Friday against the Spurs, is averaging 22.5 points over his last six games.
“It’s new to a lot of people,” Jackson said of Jack, who spent the 2008-09 season with Indiana. “But that’s who he is for us. He’s been a sparkplug off the bench for us. He’s been a leader. He’s been a no-nonsense guy with a tremendous voice.”
The Pacers had won three straight in this series before falling 103-92 at Golden State on Dec. 1. George, who leads Indiana with 17.6 points per game, went scoreless for the only time this season on 0-of-7 shooting.
The Warriors have dropped 10 of 11 at Indiana, including five straight while allowing an average of 114.2 points.
Golden State center Andrew Bogut didn’t travel with the team for the start of this trip due to back spasms.