Seeking a season high-tying fourth consecutive win, the visiting Pacers face a Hornets team hoping to avoid a third loss in four games Sunday night.
Indiana (35-42) held on for an 89-88 win over Milwaukee on Friday. With Charlotte falling to Orlando, the Pacers moved two games ahead of the ninth-place Bobcats for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“That’s a huge win for us, especially considering Charlotte lost,” said forward Danny Granger(notes), averaging 25.7 points in his last seven meetings with New Orleans. “We’re one step closer. We just need to keep winning, and that will take care of everything.”
Indiana, which had lost 16 in a row when scoring fewer than 100 points, held the Bucks to 42.5 percent shooting and won for the 12th time in 16 games when holding an opponent to 100 points or fewer.
“You learn a lot about your guys when you have a high-stakes game,” interim coach Frank Vogel said. “I’m proud of our defensive effort.”
The Pacers, winners of three straight, could be in for another highly competitive game. Their last five matchups with the Hornets have been decided by 17 points.
Indiana had lost five straight in the series before a 94-93 win Dec. 20 on Mike Dunleavy’s tip-in as time expired.
New Orleans (43-33) was in third place in the West after winning its 10th straight Jan. 26, but it’s since gone 12-17 and has yet to secure a playoff spot.
The Hornets are holding down the final postseason berth in the West and fell 93-81 to seventh-place Memphis, winner of four in a row, Friday. They lead ninth-place Houston by three games with six to play.
New Orleans trailed the Grizzlies by 11 after the first quarter and wasn’t able to get closer than nine the rest of the way.
“I thought in the first quarter (Memphis) set the tone of how the game was going to be played,” coach Monty Williams said. “It’s one of those situations where at this time of year you can’t step on the floor with anything less than your number one, A-level effort and we just didn’t have that to start the game.”
The Hornets are allowing 96.4 points during a 5-7 stretch at home. They limited opponents to 90.0 points in taking 20 of 25 at New Orleans Arena to start the season.
Chris Paul(notes) scored 22 points in his team’s first game after losing forward David West(notes) for the season, but he’s averaged 8.7 points - 7.4 below his season mark - and 30.3 percent shooting in the last three.
Paul has averaged 22.8 points in his last five meetings with the Pacers.
Indiana has lost eight of 11 on the road while shooting 43.2 percent. New Orleans has gone 22-6 when holding opponents to that mark or below.