After a tough three-game road trip, the Indiana Pacers look to give a boost to their sagging playoff hopes Tuesday, when they return home to face the Seattle SuperSonics, one of the NBA's worst teams.
The Pacers (24-39) have lost three straight, six of eight and are just 5-16 since Jan. 23 to fall out of the current Eastern Conference playoff picture. They are coming off an 0-3 road trip following losses to Houston and San Antonio - two of the top teams in the West - and a 103-95 loss to division rival Cleveland on Saturday.
Danny Granger scored 19 points and Troy Murphy and Marquis Daniels each added 17 in Saturday's loss. Cleveland led 34-17 at the end of the first quarter and Indiana never recovered.
The Pacers held the Cavaliers to just 40.7 percent shooting, but they were outscored 20-4 at the free-throw line, and couldn't find an answer to LeBron James, who scored 38 points.
Indiana's slump comes despite the increased production from Granger, the team's leading scorer at 18.4 points per game. Granger has done his best carrying Indiana while Jermaine O'Neal (bone bruise) and Jamaal Tinsley (sore left knee) have been sidelined. He's averaging 21.6 points over the last seven games.
The Pacers will try to avoid a fourth straight loss Tuesday when host a Seattle team that has beaten them the last three times the clubs have met.
The SuperSonics (16-47) have also won six of the last seven meetings against the Pacers. They beat Indiana 95-93 on Nov. 30 for their first home win of the season after an 0-7 start as rookie Kevin Durant scored 22 of his 35 points in the second half.
Durant struggled a bit in February, averaging 18.1 points on 37.6 percent shooting in 11 games. He's bounced back a bit in March in the first five games of this seven-game road trip for Seattle, averaging 20.4 points while shooting nearly 49 percent.
Chris Wilcox had 28 points and 10 rebounds while Durant added 20 and six, but it wasn't enough to prevent Seattle's fourth straight loss, 114-106 to Toronto on Sunday.
Seattle shot 54.1 percent from the field, but it committed 22 turnovers, leading to 30 Toronto points. Durant committed five of those turnovers, while Wilcox had four.
"I expect us to play better than what we played today," Wilcox said. "But at the same time, it is a long road trip for us. We have got a game in two days and hopefully we can get together and play hard."
It was the fourth time in five games Seattle had at least 20 turnovers.
"We felt going in that we couldn't turn the ball over, and that's a major problem to begin with ... 22 turnovers for 30 points, you shouldn't even be in the game," coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
Seattle, which has lost seven straight on the road to teams from the Eastern Conference, closes the trip Wednesday with a visit to league-leading Boston.
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