Indiana is tied with Chicago for sixth place in the East, one game behind fifth-place Washington and one-half game ahead of eighth-place Milwaukee. The Pacers are out of contention for the fifth seed, but can finish anywhere from sixth to eighth.
A victory over Orlando clinches the sixth seed for Indiana, resulting in a first-round series against Atlantic Division champion New Jersey.
The only way Indiana can finish eighth is if it loses and Chicago beats Toronto on Wednesday. The Pacers likely want to avoid that scenario, which would result in a first-round matchup with league-best Detroit.
The Pistons have eliminated the Pacers from the playoffs the last two years.
“Obviously, we all know that Detroit is the best team in the East right now,” Indiana forward Peja Stojakovic said. “They’re playing good basketball. All three teams are trying to avoid Detroit.”
If Indiana and Chicago both lose Wednesday, the Pacers will be seeded seventh and face Miami.
The Pacers have averaged 103.6 points in winning four of their last five games, using an up-tempo style usually not favored by defensive-minded coach Rick Carlisle. Injuries and the acquisition of Stojakovic have forced Carlisle to use 31 different lineups as well as different strategy.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we understand that we’re a veteran team that has to play to our strengths,” Carlisle said. “We have to be efficient and have a certain toughness about us. We’ve shown a lot of those qualities over the last week.”
Indiana needs a win Wednesday to avoid its first losing season since 1996-97.
Orlando will try to end its season with a victory after having a season-high eight-game winning snapped with a 116-112 overtime loss to Chicago on Monday. The Magic let an 11-point halftime lead slip away and wasted 32 points from Hedo Turkoglu.
“They deserved to win,” Magic coach Brian Hill said. “They played hard, they made big shots when they needed them and it probably wasn’t one of our better offensive efforts from the standpoint of getting real good ball movement and taking care of the basketball.”
Despite the loss, Orlando appears to have a bright future with the development of second-year players Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson and the addition of promising center Darko Milicic. The Magic were one of the NBA’s hottest teams down the stretch with wins in 16 of its last 21 games.
“It’s hard for me to talk about next year,” Hill said. “All I really want to do is make sure we finish up this season on the right note and that’s our game Wednesday night against Indiana.”