Indy Splits Key Seeding Weekend
Playing two games against teams in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference in the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, Al Jefferson and the Indiana Pacers were able to stay in the sixth spot with a 99-85 loss and 102-98 win, respectively.
Big Al went for six points and a rebound in 13 minutes against the Bucks and was a healthy inactive against the Heat Sunday afternoon.
The Pacers had the hot hand to start against the Bucks on Friday night, jumping out to a 10-0 lead early on. Big Al’s layup with 1:47 left put the lead at eight, but the Bucks scored the last four points of the quarter to narrow the gap going into the second.
While Indiana led by as many as 10 in the second, neither team was able to make much of an imprint on the game in a quarter the Pacers won 23-22 to give them a 50-45 at the half.
Milwaukee took its first lead of the game with 8:34 left in the third on a three by Khris Middleton to go up by three. In all, the Bucks built their biggest lead of the game by outscoring the Pacers 29-16 until the 2:26 mark of the third to go up by eight.
Despite the Bucks’ big third quarter, the Pacers went into the fourth down just six points. Indiana cut the lead to three with 7:50 left but the Bucks went on a 13-4 run over the next 5:19 to ice the game.
The Pacers three-point shooting has been a strength in March but they were just 2-18 against the Bucks, going the entire second half without a made attempt.
HOME SWEET HOME
Back home against the Heat on Sunday, the Pacers broke a 16-16 tie midway through the first by going on a 7-0 run. Indiana ended up finishing the first on a 16-8 run to lead by ten after one.
The Heat bounced back in the second, cutting the lead to one with 5:37 until halftime by scoring nine straight. Indiana never lost the lead, but the Heat continued to threaten the rest of the quarter and the Pacers were up seven at the half.
Down 11 with 3:41 to go in the third, Miami went on an 8-2 to run to keep the game within striking distance. Paul George responded by scoring five straight on his own, though, and Indiana went into the fourth with an eight-point cushion.
Miami began to chip away in the fourth, and James Johnson’s three with 5:02 to play cut the lead to two. A successive three by Wayne Ellington gave the Heat a one-point lead. The teams traded baskets the next two possessions before the Pacers were able to put together a 7-0 run and go up by six with seven seconds left.
“We needed this win,” said George after the game. “We need all this wins coming down the stretch.”
Oft the victim of free throw disparities this season, the Pacers were the ones to benefit on Sunday afternoon, going 27-32 to the Heat’s 11-16. Indiana won despite a season-low 12 assists.
The Knicks and Pacers renew their rivalry at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday with a 7:30 p.m. ET tipoff.
EASTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS (3/14)
- Cleveland Cavaliers (43-22)
- Boston Celtics (42-25) 2 GB
- Washington Wizards (41-25) 2.5 GB
- Toronto Raptors (39-27) 5 GB
- Atlanta Hawks (37-30) 7 GB
- Indiana Pacers (34-32) 9.5 GB
- Detroit Pistons (33-33) 10.5 GB
- Milwaukee Bucks (32-34) 11.5 GB