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Apr 1, 2024 6:41 am

Pacers, in tight race for 6th in East, face Nets twice

pascal siakam

There are two weeks left in the NBA regular season, but the Indiana Pacers already have a playoff mindset.

The Pacers will oppose the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night in Indianapolis, and the teams will complete a home-and-home set on Wednesday night in New York.

The Pacers (42-33) enter play Monday night in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, the final guaranteed playoff position, with the Orlando Magic (43-31) up by 1 1/2 games in fifth. Of more concern for Indiana is the presence of the Miami Heat (41-33) in seventh, a half-game back, and the Philadelphia 76ers (40-35) in eighth, two games behind.

The Nets (29-46) are hoping to salvage any playoff hopes by staging a late-season push, but they sit in 5 1/2 games behind the 10th-place Atlanta Hawks, who hold the East’s final play-in position. Brooklyn has just seven games remaining.

“These are all playoff games, you know,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “I mean, they’re fighting for their position in the standings. We are, too.”

The Pacers have enjoyed two days off following a 109-90 home win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, Indiana’s fourth victory in six games.

Indiana’s one-two punch of Pascal Siakam and Tyrese Haliburton led the way on Friday with 22 and 21 points, respectively, and they have been at the forefront during the six-game stretch.

Siakam owns a team-best average of 21.4 points per game since coming to Indiana from the Toronto Raptors in a January trade. His overall season average is 21.8 points — a mark he surpassed in five of the past six games, a stretch that included a pair of 30-point performances.

Haliburton is averaging 18.8 points and 8.7 assists during the six-game run. He made all-around contributions in the win over the Lakers, amassing eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals.

The Nets are hoping to shake off a 116-104 loss to the visiting Lakers on Sunday night, a result that broke a three-game winning streak.

Brooklyn fell behind 17-0 before finally scoring its first points more than six minutes into the contest. The Nets trailed 31-11 after the first quarter and never got closer than eight points (early in the fourth quarter) the rest of the way.

“We need to get out to a good start,” Nets interim coach Kevin Ollie said. “Indiana is a fast-paced team, they love to get out in the first quarter, so we have to be locked in on the game plan.”

Cam Thomas continued to be a bright spot for the Nets. The third-year guard had 30 points against the Lakers, and he has led Brooklyn in scoring in 10 of the teams’ last 12 games. He missed one of the other two games.

After averaging 20.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists and shooting 43.7 percent from the floor through the end of February, Thomas put up 26.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game in March while shooting 47.5 percent. He will look to maintain that momentum as the calendar flips to April.

The Monday night game will be the second meeting between the Nets and Pacers this season, after Indiana earned a 121-100 victory on March 16 in Indianapolis. The teams split their four-game series last season.

–Field Level Media

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