Battling to qualify for the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season, the Indiana Pacers look to continue taking advantage of a soft stretch of schedule when they face the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.
Indiana (34-42), looking to win its third consecutive game against an opponent below it in the East and match its season-high winning streak, is right behind Orlando for eighth place in the weak conference. The Pacers are coming off a 105-98 victory over Boston on Saturday after beating Charlotte 112-102 on Friday.
“We haven’t won back-to-back games in a while, so maybe it’s something,” said Pacers guard Mike Dunleavy, who finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists against the Celtics. “We’re taking care of business right now and doing all we can do.”
Indiana has won two straight for the first time since taking three in a row from Feb. 11-21 - its fourth three-game win streak of the season. The Pacers followed that run by losing a season-high 11 straight and 17 of 19. One of the defeats during that stretch was a 100-96 home loss to the 76ers on March 10.
“We’re just trying to hang in this playoff race,” Indiana guard Darrell Armstrong said. “We still have faith.”
The Pacers appear to be turning things around at just the right time, winning three of their last four games with only six to go. They open a three-game road trip against the 76ers, then visit lowly Milwaukee on Wednesday for their fourth game in a row against an East team out of playoff position.
Indiana closes out the trip at Southeast Division-leading Miami on Friday.
The Pacers will try to clinch the season series against Philadelphia after winning the first two meetings.
Philadelphia has alternated wins and losses over the last seven contests, keeping its slim playoff hopes alive with six games remaining. The Sixers rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit to beat Atlanta 109-104 in overtime Sunday, scoring 68 points in the second half and extra period.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. “In the first half, they were getting up and down the floor, outrunning us and getting easy shots. Their zone bothered us in the first half, but in the second half we attacked the zone and figured it out.”
Andre Iguodala scored 25 points in the victory, and is averaging 20.6 points and 8.0 assists in the last seven games since missing a March 23 win over Charlotte with a lower back strain.
The swingman has topped the 20-point mark in each of his last two games against the Pacers. He had 25 in the most recent matchup March 10, as five Sixers scored in double digits in the victory.