Pacers-Cavaliers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 11, 2012
Though the Indiana Pacers are firmly entrenched in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, they will not look ahead to the postseason. The Pacers hope to continue their April success by trying for a third consecutive road victory Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Indiana (35-22) concluded March by losing two of three, but won four in a row to begin April and five of the last six. Winners in 10 of 14 overall, the Pacers are third in the Eastern Conference and focused solely on the matter at hand. "We cannot take none of the games for granted,'' Indianapolis native George Hill said. "Third place through eighth place is so close, so every game has meaning." Indiana maintained that approach Monday when it shot 50.7 percent in a 103-98 win over Toronto. Hill and Danny Granger each scored 18 points as the Pacers bounced back from an 86-72 home defeat to Boston two nights earlier. Averaging 23.3 points on 52.3 percent shooting in the last eight games, Granger continues to pace the Pacers. However, the play of Hill in place of injured guard Darren Collison (groin) was likely more beneficial as Indiana looks to find other contributors aside from Granger and All-Star center Roy Hibbert. "It's fun, you get to go out there and show what you can do as a starter,'' said Hill, who is averaging 8.9 points but coming off his first start of the season. "Have fun out there with the first unit, which I never have got a chance to play with." Ankle injuries kept both Hill and Granger out when the Pacers' six-game winning streak versus Cleveland was snapped with a 98-87 road loss Feb. 15. The pair did combine for 37 points during Indiana's 98-91 overtime home win against the Cavaliers on Dec. 30. Granger has averaged 28.2 points in his last six games versus Cleveland. While the Pacers are hoping to maintain their position in the conference standings the Cavaliers (19-36) are set to miss the playoffs for the second straight season but have shown improvement from the 19-63 performance of 2010-11. Reserve Lester Hudson had 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Cleveland matched its win total from last season with a 103-90 home win over Charlotte on Tuesday. The Cavaliers have won two of three since a season-high nine-game losing streak that all but ended their hopes of reaching the playoffs. Prior to Tuesday's win, Cleveland had dropped its last two at Quicken Loans Arena by a combined 72 points - the first team in NBA history to lose back-to-back games at home by more than 36 points. One bright spot of late has been Hudson. The third-year guard is with his fourth team playing on a second 10-day contract and averaging 24.7 points in the last three games while star rookie Kyrie Irving remains out because of a shoulder injury. "It's like I'm dreaming,'' said Hudson, who played in China during the lockout and for the Austin Toros of the NBA Developmental League before getting his shot with the Cavaliers. "I want to kept it going and never let up on working hard every day." Cleveland last won consecutive games during a three-game run March 7-11.
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