The Indiana Pacers continue to cling to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t too far behind and seem to be getting healthy at just the right time.
The Pacers will try to hand a potentially crushing blow to the Bucks’ playoff hopes when the teams close out their season series Friday night in Indianapolis.
Indiana (34-42) defeated Detroit 111-101 on Wednesday night - its second win in a row and fourth in six games - to remain one game ahead of Charlotte and three in front of 10th-place Milwaukee (30-44) in the East.
A Pacers victory Friday would not only put the Bucks four games back in the standings, it would also pull Indiana to within three games of seventh-place New York.
“(Seventh place) is not out of reach yet. We just have to pray the Knicks keep losing. … We have six games left now so we’ll see where it goes.”
Milwaukee took six straight from the Pacers, holding them to an average of 91.8 points, before falling 103-97 on Feb. 12 as Granger scored 30.
“This is probably do or die for us,” Bogut said. “This game is everything for us and probably everything for them, too.”
“Drew is a big part of this team,” said Jennings, averaging 25.3 points in his last four games - 9.2 more than his season mark. “He’s a great rebounder and he’s a great screen-and-pop shooter. When he’s out there making shots, it opens up the offense a lot.”
“You can say it’s similar to making a trade and having two guys come in, but we didn’t trade anybody,” Gooden said. “It’s a plus for us to be healthy right now and contributing down the stretch.”
The Pacers also got some help Wednesday, as swingman Mike Dunleavy saw his first action since breaking his thumb against Washington on Feb. 22. Dunleavy, who missed 20 games, scored nine points in 19 minutes.
Milwaukee, which ranks last in the league with 91.6 points per game, has averaged 89.7 in losing nine of 12 on the road. The Bucks, though, have won three straight at Conseco Fieldhouse - all by four points or less.
Indiana has taken nine of 12 when holding opponents to under 100 points.