Pacers-Wizards Preview

The Associated Press

A late rally in their last game helped the Indiana Pacers make a big jump in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Pacers will go for a third straight victory Wednesday night when they visit the lowly Washington Wizards.

Indiana (32-21), which has won seven of 10, took a half-game lead over Orlando for the third seed in the East with a 112-104 win over New York on Tuesday.

Danny Granger scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, during which Indiana outscored the Knicks 40-17 to rally from a 17-point deficit. Paul George had 12 of his 18 points in the final period.

Granger has scored 25 or more in four of his last six games, and he's 11 of 16 from 3-point range in the past two.

"It's playoff time," Granger said. "We need momentum going into these playoffs. For the first time in a lot of years, we have a really good team and can make a lot of noise."

While the Pacers tightened up their defense in the fourth quarter, holding the Knicks to 35.0 percent shooting, they gave up more than 100 points for a season-high third straight game.

Indiana has faced double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter in its last two games. On Sunday against Houston, the Pacers rallied from 10 down to force overtime en route to a 104-102 win.

George said Indiana needs to get off to a better start in Washington. The Pacers have pulled out a pair of close wins against the Wizards, who own the conference's second-worst record at 12-41, and they lost 100-84 in New Jersey last Wednesday.

"It's all confidence," George said. "We seem to be able to get over the tough games and then fall short (in easier ones) so we've got to move on to the next one."

Indiana will try to separate itself further from Orlando - which is idle Wednesday - when it visits Washington, which has lost two straight and seven of eight.

The Wizards fell 112-98 to Milwaukee on Monday, ending a nine-game stretch of holding opponents to fewer than 100 points. The Bucks shot 51.8 percent and had a 48-35 rebounding advantage.

Jordan Crawford finished with 23 points and John Wall added 14 points and nine assists. Nene and Trevor Booker both missed a second straight game due to foot injuries.

"Hopefully we can get our injured guys back as soon as possible, but if not, we have to find a way to pull through," coach Randy Wittman said. "It is hard being in this situation with some new guys. Some players are not used to certain plays, but that's the nature of this business."

Wittman said fatigue may have been to blame for the lax defense, which could be a bad sign for this week. Wednesday begins a back-to-back-to-back stretch for the Wizards - their second in less than two weeks.

Washington lost all three games when it played on three consecutive nights March 24-26.

The Pacers have won five straight against the Wizards, holding them to 86.0 points but averaging 89.0 in the two meetings this season.

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