Pacers clinging to element of surprise ahead of road tests

Bojan Bogdanovic and the Pacers are looking to keep a good, and surprising, thing going.

Some would consider it a surprise, but it’s true. The Indiana Pacers really are still in third place in the Eastern Conference.

It wouldn’t be nearly as surprising if star guard and team leader Victor Oladipo were still in uniform. But Oladipo suffered a leg injury in late January and was lost for the season.

The Pacers have barely missed a step, dribble or dunk.

But the test continues, as they have two biggies coming up — the first of which comes on the road, Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pacers following that with a visit to the Philadelphia 76ers, currently the fourth seed in the East.

“Very important,” was how Pacers forward Thad Young described the next two games, via the Indianapolis Star. “We’ve just got to make sure we take care of business starting with the Bucks. Go out there to Milwaukee and get us a win, and then take our talents to Philly and try to get another one.

“The biggest thing is staying confident and believing in the stuff that we’re running, execution and trying to put together a 48-minute game.”

According to Tankathon.com, the Pacers have the league’s fourth-toughest remaining schedule, with opponents sporting a .550 winning percentage.

That’s neither here nor there to the Pacers’ Nate McMillan, undoubtedly a candidate for Coach of the Year honors.

“The focus has been the next game and the next opponent,” McMillan said. “They know the schedule. But we haven’t talked much about the upcoming road trip and going out west here lately.”

Small forward Bojan Bogdanovic (17.7 points per game), power forward Domantas Sabonis (14.9 points, 9.3 rebounds) and recently acquired wing Wesley Matthews (13.6 points) are among those who have picked up the slack in Oladipo’s absence.

Also, point guard Darren Collison is averaging 11.0 points and a team-high 6.0 assists.