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
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
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
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