Nets-Pacers Preview

The Indiana Pacers are playing some of their best basketball of

the season when it seems to matter the least.

Led by Danny Granger, the Pacers try for a fourth consecutive

victory and a sweep of the season series from the lowly New Jersey

Nets on Saturday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Indiana (31-48) will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight

time, but it has a chance to salvage another disappointing season

with a strong finish. The Pacers have won nine of 11 after a

116-113 victory at Cleveland on Friday.

Though the Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers rested most of

their regulars, including superstar LeBron James, the Pacers should

gain momentum from that victory as they try to close out the season

on a positive note.

“It’s a great confidence win,” said Granger, who scored 36

points. “I don’t care who isn’t playing for them. They’re still a

very good team.”

Indiana shot 50.6 percent Friday, and has made 52.3 percent of

its shots while averaging 120.7 points during its three-game

winning streak.

Granger has been a big reason for the team’s surge, scoring 30.1

points per game over his last 11 contests. The fifth-year forward

has averaged 25.0 in his last five games against New Jersey.

Indiana has won six of seven from the Nets (12-67), scoring

106.3 points while taking all three meetings this season. The

Pacers haven’t swept a season series from the Nets since

1989-90.

Though New Jersey has endured a frustrating season filled with

injuries and an overall lack of talent, it’s managed to play well

of late.

The Nets won for the fifth time in nine games, 127-116 in

double-overtime Friday against Chicago, which is fighting for the

final playoff spot in the East.

“It was a definite playoff atmosphere because we know how much

they needed this game,” said point guard Devin Harris, who had 19

points. “We just (want) to finish the season on a high note, so we

are attacking every game.”

Terrence Williams had 27 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists off

the bench to become the first Nets rookie with a triple-double

since 2001. Williams is averaging 8.2 points this season, but 14.2

in his last 20 contests.

Brook Lopez added 26 points with 14 boards as the Nets outscored

the Bulls 15-4 in the second overtime.

Lopez has been one of the few bright spots for New Jersey this

season. The second-year pro averages a team-leading 18.9 points

with 8.7 rebounds per contest, and 26.0 with 12.3 boards in three

games against Indiana this season.

Though the latest victory came at home, the Nets have lost eight

straight on the road where they’re 4-35.