Bucks-Pacers Preview

The Indiana Pacers continue to cling to the eighth and final

playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t too far behind and seem to be getting

healthy at just the right time.

The Pacers will try to hand a potentially crushing blow to the

Bucks’ playoff hopes when the teams close out their season series

Friday night in Indianapolis.

Indiana (34-42) defeated Detroit 111-101 on Wednesday night –

its second win in a row and fourth in six games – to remain one

game ahead of Charlotte and three in front of 10th-place Milwaukee

(30-44) in the East.

A Pacers victory Friday would not only put the Bucks four games

back in the standings, it would also pull Indiana to within three

games of seventh-place New York.

“We really have an opportunity to knock Milwaukee out,” forward

Danny Granger said. “That will be one less team to worry about even

though Charlotte’s right behind us still.”

“(Seventh place) is not out of reach yet. We just have to pray

the Knicks keep losing. … We have six games left now so we’ll see

where it goes.”

Milwaukee took six straight from the Pacers, holding them to an

average of 91.8 points, before falling 103-97 on Feb. 12 as Granger

scored 30.

Bucks center Andrew Bogut, averaging 17.3 points and 11.3

rebounds in his last 15 meetings with Indiana, knows another loss

could be devastating.

“This is probably do or die for us,” Bogut said. “This game is

everything for us and probably everything for them, too.”

Milwaukee won 104-98 in Toronto on Wednesday night to avoid a

third consecutive defeat as guard Brandon Jennings continued his

impressive play with 25 points.

Forward Drew Gooden matched a season high with 22 points and

also had 11 rebounds off the bench in his second game back since

missing 32 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

“Drew is a big part of this team,” said Jennings, averaging 25.3

points in his last four games – 9.2 more than his season mark.

“He’s a great rebounder and he’s a great screen-and-pop shooter.

When he’s out there making shots, it opens up the offense a

lot.”

Former All-Star Michael Redd scored five points Wednesday in his

second game of 2010-11. Redd missed the last 14 months recovering

from a second major knee surgery.

“You can say it’s similar to making a trade and having two guys

come in, but we didn’t trade anybody,” Gooden said. “It’s a plus

for us to be healthy right now and contributing down the

stretch.”

The Pacers also got some help Wednesday, as swingman Mike

Dunleavy saw his first action since breaking his thumb against

Washington on Feb. 22. Dunleavy, who missed 20 games, scored nine

points in 19 minutes.

Milwaukee, which ranks last in the league with 91.6 points per

game, has averaged 89.7 in losing nine of 12 on the road. The

Bucks, though, have won three straight at Conseco Fieldhouse – all

by four points or less.

Indiana has taken nine of 12 when holding opponents to under 100

points.