Minnesota (33-46) at Indiana (38-40)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Indianapolis, IN
Temp: 86° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EDT Fri Apr 14, 2006
  • TV: ESPN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Indiana Pacers hung on in a must-win game and prepare to play another as they host the Minnesota Timberwolves at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Indiana, which has made the playoffs eight consecutive seasons and 15 of the last 16, is tied with Milwaukee for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with four games remaining.

Eighth-seeded Chicago and Philadelphia are one game behind Indiana, and the 10th-seeded Orlando Magic are three games behind the Bulls and Sixers, still mathematically alive for the final playoff spot.

After this game, the Pacers travel to Charlotte and Toronto before hosting Orlando in its season finale April 19.

Indiana is a combined 5-3 against those three teams this season.

Backed by six double-digit scorers, including Peja Stojakovic’s 25 points, the Pacers reached a season high in points in Wednesday’s 117-112 win over Boston, eliminating the Celtics from postseason contention.

Jermaine O’Neal added 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, and Austin Croshere scored 20 points for the Pacers, who led by as many as 15 before turning back a fourth-quarter rally by the Celtics.

“It got hairy at the end, but it’s going to be hairy at times,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “You’ve just got to be able to find a way to win. The importance of it is being able to stop the run.”

Indiana guard Fred Jones, the team’s fourth-leading scorer at 9.6 points per game, sat out with a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Carlisle said the injury is more serious than originally thought, and Jones may miss the final four games.

The Pacers have won their last three home games, making 29 3-pointers and averaging 109.7 points.

Minnesota, which will miss the playoffs for the second straight year after making it every season from 1997-2004, is just 2-4 in its last six games but coming off an 82-79 win Wednesday over Houston.

Mark Blount scored 18 points for the Timberwolves, who snapped a 14-game road losing streak by overcoming an 18-point first-half deficit despite missing their two top scorers in Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis, shooting just 37.8 percent from the field and getting ourebounded by the Rockets.

“These are young guys and we’re trying to win,” said Minnesota coach Dwane Casey. “For me to build a winning environment, you have to try to win every night.”

Marcus Banks added 15 points and Justin Reed 13 in his third consecutive start.

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