PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Indiana forward Danny Granger was scoreboard watching. When he didn’t like what he saw, he stepped up his game.
Granger scored 15 of his 30 points in the third quarter as the Pacers kept their slim Eastern Conference playoff hopes alive with an 85-76 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
“We knew Atlanta was winning,” said Granger, who also had 12 rebounds. “We knew we had to have this one.”
Granger hit a 3-pointer early in the quarter as Indiana went up 48-37, hit a big bucket when the 76ers pulled to 58-56, and scored five quick points late in the period after Philadelphia got to 62-59.
“Danny was outstanding,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said. “He is a great shooter and when he gets on a roll, he’s really difficult. Without him carrying us in the second half, I don’t think we make it out of here with a win tonight.”
Indiana won its fourth straight but remained two games behind No. 8 Atlanta,which beat New York, with three to play. Even though the Pacers hold the tiebreaker against the Hawks, they still likely need to win their final three games to have a chance at the postseason.
“We couldn’t guard them shooting the threes and we didn’t guard them off the dribble,” 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks said.
Granger scored six more points in a 15-2 fourth-quarter run that stretched Indiana’s lead to 82-65 and put the game out of reach, a burst that started when 6-foot-1 guard Travis Diener sneaked past Philadelphia’s big men for a second chance basket, one where the 76ers missed nine straight shots.
“We knew this team was playing just as well as any team in the East really, besides Boston,” Diener said. “We came in tonight with a lot of focus and we knew we had to win.”
Philadelphia dropped into a tie for the No. 6 seed in the conference with Toronto, which beat New Jersey, but remained one game behind No. 5 Washington, after the Wizards lost at Detroit.
Philadelphia made just 35 percent of its field goal attempts (33-for-95) and shot 43 percent from the foul line (9-for-21). They missed 13 of 14 shots from beyond the 3-point arc and misfired on 14 of their first 16 shots in the fourth quarter.
While Andre Miller paced the 76ers with 23 points and Thaddeus Young scored 21, three of the young players who have contributed to Philadelphia’s surprising midseason resurgence struggled with miserable nights from the floor. Willie Green (2-for-14), Lou Williams (2-for-12), and Rodney Carney (1-for-11) combined to hit five of 37 shots.
“Just one of those games we couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean,” Green said. “We missed open shots, we missed layups, we missed free throws. It led to us being out of rhythm on the other end.”
Things could have been worse for Philadelphia, as star Andre Iguodala limped off the court midway through the first quarter with a bruised lower left leg. But he returned midway through the second quarter, and even though he was clearly less than 100 percent, still finished with nine points and 10 assists.
“Right now I have to play through it,” Iguodala said. “You just have to go out there and gut it out. It prevented me from running out on breaks like I usually do, but I think I was still effective out there.”
Indiana swept the season series 3-0 Philadelphia set a Wachovia Center record for its worst team free throw shooting in a game. The 76ers shot 50 percent (14-for-28) in a game against the Knicks on Nov. 30, 1999 Philadelphia would lose a seeding tiebreaker to Toronto, while the 76ers game Saturday night at Washington will determine who holds the tiebreaker between those teams.