Pacers third in the East with 15 games to play

Sunday night’s slate of NBA games played out nicely for the Indiana Pacers. A Pacers win in Boston combined with a Cavaliers loss to the Lakers has moved Indiana into third place in the Eastern Conference for the first time this season.

The Pacers, who have won nine of their last 12 games and two in a row, are a half game in front of the Cavaliers (38-28) and they own the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning three of their four matchups this season.

Vegas set the over/under for the Pacers at 31.5 wins in August.

With 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Pacers are 39-28, but … they have one of the league’s most challenging schedules ahead of them. Just this week they’ll face three more Eastern Conference playoff teams: Philadelphia on Tuesday, Toronto on Thursday, and Washington on Saturday.

Toronto, at 49-17, owns a 3.5-game lead on second-place Boston.

The Pacers have been led by Victor Oladipo, the clear leader for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. He’s averaging a team-high 23.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists per game, and a league-best 2.2 steals per game. But it’s also just as much about their balanced attack. Six Pacers in all are averaging double figures.

[Players urged Pacers front office to let the same group finish out the season]

“What I notice about this team is they have this foundation of respect for each other,” Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard said last month. “And that’s what we’ve always wanted. … A lot of times, we haven’t seen small issues because big issues.”

And, for those still keeping a close eye on Oklahoma City, the Pacers have a slightly better record than the Thunder, too. OKC is 39-29.

Yet again, Pacers center Myles Turner has the following message for everyone else:

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[Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

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