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Cavaliers in playoff mode for critical game with Pacers on April 12

Apr. 11—The NBA calendar says the 2024 playoffs begin April 20. Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen says that isn't quite accurate.

"I feel like we have to treat this next game like a playoff game," Allen said April 10 after the Cavs beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 110-98, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to snap a three-game losing streak. "They're in the seedings where it very well could be a playoff game.

"We have to lock in before the game, and make sure we get our film in, take care of our bodies and all that. That's a given. But when game time comes, we have to lock in and settle in on what makes us a good team and go out and play."

The Cavaliers, in a rush-hour traffic jam with five other teams jockeying for position in the NBA Eastern Conference, host the Indiana Pacers on April 12 at the FieldHouse then conclude the regular season at 1 p.m. April 14 in a home game with the Charlotte Hornets.

The Cavs (47-33) are fourth in the East, two games behind second-place Milwaukee and a half-game behind the third-place New York Knicks, who were in Boston on April 11 for a game with the East-leading Celtics. The Pacers and Orlando Magic are tied for fifth at 46-34, one game behind the Cavaliers.

The top six teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs. Teams 7-10 in the standings qualify for a play-in tournament to determine the final two playoff spots in each conference.

The Philadelphia 76ers are seventh in the East at 45-35. The Cavs will secure a spot in the top six, thus avoiding the stress of the play-in tournament, with one victory or one Philadelphia loss in the last two games.

Races are so tight that tiebreakers will be needed to determine playoff seeding if teams finish with identical records.

The way the Cavaliers have stumbled since the All-Star break (11-16) makes the April 12 game against the Pacers the most important of the regular season for them. A loss to Indiana not only would mean the Cavs and Pacers would both be 47-34. It would also clinch the tiebreaker for Indiana if the two teams finish tied because the Pacers would have won the regular season series with the Cavs, three games to one.

The Cavs would lose a tiebreaker with the Magic and Knicks, too. The Knicks won the series with the Cavs, 2-1. The Magic and Cavs split four games, but the Magic would win a tiebreaker because Orlando is first in the Southeast Division.

The Cavs would tie the Bucks for second place in the East if they win their last two games and the Bucks lose their last two. The two teams split four regular season games. The Cavs would win the tiebreaker with a better division record — 10-6 compared to the Bucks' 10-7 mark. The Bucks and Pacers each played an extra division game because they met in the in-season tournament.

Allen said the Cavaliers must play faster against the Pacers and get into their positions at the offensive end quickly enough to control the tempo of the game. They failed to do that in the first half against the Grizzlies and trailed, 51-48, at halftime.

The Pacers figure to be a much sterner test than were the Grizzlies. Twelve Memphis players missed the game with a variety of injuries.

"All these games moving forward, regular season and playoffs," are super important," Cavaliers guard Caris LeVert said. "Indy could be the team we see in the first round. It's always important at this time of year to play your best basketball."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has to be loving the way playoff races are unfolding in both conferences because it means several games on the final day (April 14) of the regular season will be relevant. In addition to the Cavs hosting the Hornets (20-60), the Bucks play the Magic in Orlando, the Knicks host the Chicago Bulls, the 76ers host the Brooklyn Nets and the Pacers host the Atlanta Hawks.

PACERS AT CAVALIERS

When: 7:30 p.m., April 12

Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

Records: Pacers 46-34, Cavaliers 47-33

TV: Bally Sports Ohio