The Indiana Pacers will attempt to avoid a late-game meltdown and hold on to — or move up — in the Eastern Conference playoff race tonight, but the task won’t be easy.
The Pacers (41-36) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (56-22) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with tipoff set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Indiana and nationally on ESPN. Some tickets are available (317-917-2827).
Indiana is in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of the Chicago Bulls (39-39) for the final spot in the playoffs. The Pacers are attempting to catch the Detroit Pistons (41-37) for the seventh playoff spot.
With a win, the Cavs can secure no less than a tie for the Eastern Conference championship with Toronto (52-25). Cleveland has defeated Indiana all three times the teams have played this season.
As usual, the Pacers’ biggest chore will be trying to slow down LeBron James, who had 33 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists the last time the teams met, a 100-96 Cavs overtime win in Cleveland on Feb. 29.
Kyrie Irving is back after recovering from a sprained ankle but it is unclear how much the All-Star point guard will play.
The Pacers are coming off back-to-back wins over two of the worst teams in the NBA, victories that became more difficult to achieve than necessary.
On Saturday, Indiana beat lowly Philadelphia 115-102. The 76ers rallied from an 18-point deficit before the Pacers secured the win.
On Sunday, Indiana also blew an 18-point lead against New York at Madison Square Garden, but held on to defeat the Knicks, 92-87.
NBA notes: With San Antonio’s 88-86 win over Utah Tuesday, Tim Duncan became the first player in NBA history to win 1,000 games with one team. The 15-time All-Star and 2-time MVP is the third player in league history to reach 1,000 career victories, sharing elite company with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,074) and Robert Parish (1,014).
Statistics via NBA.com.
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