Despite being headed for a fifth straight losing season, the Indiana Pacers are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot.
They could move a big step closer to capturing the Eastern Conference’s last available postseason berth Wednesday night as they host the Washington Wizards.
Indiana (35-43) is eighth in the East with four games left, sitting 2 1/2 ahead of ninth-place Charlotte and 3 1/2 in front of 10th-place Milwaukee. It seems the Pacers have an excellent chance to improve their position Wednesday, considering they face one of the league’s worst teams while the Bobcats play fourth-place Orlando and the Bucks visit second-place Miami.
Indiana has finished under .500 every season since last making the playoffs in 2006 and will do so again this season, but an 18-16 record under interim coach Frank Vogel has the team in position to reach the playoffs.
Danny Granger(notes) hasn’t been there since he was a rookie, and the Pacers likely need their top scorer to get back on track to have any shot of winning a series. He’s been held to fewer than 20 points in a season-high five consecutive games and has missed nine of his last 12 3-point attempts.
Fellow starting forward Tyler Hansbrough(notes) also is struggling, averaging 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds over the past six games. That follows an 11-game stretch during which he averaged 20.6 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Hansbrough failed to score in double figures for the third time in four games Sunday as Indiana had a three-game winning streak snapped with a 108-96 loss at New Orleans.
“Tough loss for us. Obviously a missed opportunity as we’re closing down on the playoff chase,” Vogel said.
It was the fourth time in five games the Pacers let their opponent score at least 100 points and shoot better than 50 percent from the field.
However, they’ve held Washington below 40 percent in all three meetings this season and won the last two while forcing at least 20 turnovers in each.
The Wizards (21-56) have lost six consecutive trips to Indianapolis but have shockingly won their last two road games. They had been 1-35 away from home before winning at Utah on March 28 and doing Indiana a favor with a 97-91 victory at Charlotte on Sunday.
They’ve won three straight overall after a 107-105 home victory over Detroit on Tuesday, giving them their longest win streak since the 2007-08 season.