If the Indiana Pacers are to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff race, they will have to find a way to win on the road.
Still alive for a postseason spot, Indiana will look to avoid losing 12 straight road games for the first time in over 18 years when it meets the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday.
Once in the middle of the playoff picture, the Pacers (32-42) are 3-18 since Feb. 21, but only trail eighth-place Orlando by 1 1/2 games for the final spot with eight games left.
Five of those remaining games will be played on the road, where Indiana is 11-25 and hasn’t won since beating Memphis 116-110 on Feb. 3. The Pacers haven’t lost 12 in a row on the road since dropping their first 15 contests away from home in 1988-89.
Indiana, which will finish with a losing record for the first time since it last missed the playoffs in 1996-97, will try to bounce back from a 100-85 home loss to Detroit on Tuesday.
With Jermaine O’Neal back after missing Indiana’s 100-99 win over San Antonio on Sunday with a sore left knee, the Pacers shot 52.2 percent—their highest in nine games—but couldn’t hold on to a 14-point first half-lead.
“We got off to a good start, played a good, solid first two quarters, then just fell apart in the third,” Indiana’s Mike Dunleavy said. “(Detroit) outplayed us in the third. We have to move on. We have Charlotte on Friday. You can’t look back.”
O’Neal, who had 20 points Tuesday, has missed two of the last four games due to the injury. He is averaging 23.5 points in two games against the Bobcats (30-46) this season.
Charlotte is trying to win three in a row for the first time since winning four straight from Feb. 14-23. The Bobcats are 8-5 since losing eight consecutive games from Feb. 24-March 10 and have won three straight at home.
They won 108-100 on Wednesday to sweep a home-and-home series with Washington. The Wizards played most of the game without star Gilbert Arenas, who injured his left knee after Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace fell into him.
Wallace, who averages 17.8 points and 7.1 rebounds, finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. He scored 34 on 16-for-24 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds Tuesday against the Wizards.
“I want to win, so if you want to win, you’ve got to keep getting up,” said Wallace, who has scored just 15 points and grabbed three rebounds in two games against Indiana this season.
Emeka Okafor had 17 points and 10 rebounds for his 38th double-double of the season Wednesday, and Walter Herrmann scored 20 points for Charlotte. Herrmann is averaging 19.8 points in six games since moving into the starting lineup on March 24.
The Bobcats shot 50.0 percent from the field Wednesday after shooting 57.3 on Tuesday.
“We played them good last night, and obviously it hurt with them not having Gilbert tonight,” said Charlotte’s Adam Morrison, who had a career-high 30 points against Indiana in December. “It feels good to get a win against a playoff team.”