After losing for the fifth time in six games, the Indiana Pacers hope to improve their playoff hopes by taking advantage of three of the worst teams in the NBA.
They'll try to do that when they open a three-game homestand Monday night against the New York Knicks, who are last in the Atlantic Division.
The 11th-place Pacers (24-41) are three games behind New Jersey and Atlanta for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Hawks visit Washington on Monday, while the Nets are idle.
Indiana hopes to close that gap after one of its better offensive displays of the season Saturday, as it shot 50.0 percent (41-for-82), but fell 122-111 at Southeast Division-leading Orlando. It was the first time in six games the Pacers lost while making at least half of their shots.
"We competed our butts off in the second half," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "When we go small, we have the ability to put up a lot of points very quickly. We had two wide-open 3s to take the lead, but they didn't fall for us."
Danny Granger is looking to build off his strong performance against the Magic, during which he scored 24 points, grabbed six rebounds and recorded four of the team's 13 steals. The swingman's all-around display came a night after he had 11 points and five boards before fouling out of a 116-97 loss at Dallas.
He leads the team with 18.4 points per game, and has been even better in his last eight games at Conseco Fieldhouse, averaging 22.5 points.
"It (his offensive production) is very important as I take the next step in my career to expand my offensive game and my defensive game," Granger said. "I hope it translates to more wins down the road."
Granger scored 16 in each of the two meetings - both road wins - against the Knicks (19-47) this season, giving the Pacers five wins in the last six matchups. However, the lone loss in that span came in the last meeting at Conseco on Jan. 20, 2007.
After facing New York, Indiana will host Charlotte on Wednesday before closing out the homestand Friday against Minnesota, which is tied for last in the West.
The Knicks (19-47), owners of the second-worst record in the East, are coming off a 109-98 loss to the Hawks on Sunday - their eighth in nine games. The lone victory in that span came at league-worst Miami on Wednesday, a 91-88 win that halted a five-game road losing streak.
New York is 7-25 on the road, and has been outscored by an average of 20.2 points in its last six games as the visitor.
The Knicks could use a better performance from Jamal Crawford, who went 1-for-7 from the field and missed all four of his 3-point attempts to finish with a season-low four points Sunday. The guard leads the team with a career-high 20.4 points per game.
He went 8-for-9 from the line to make up for a 5-for-17 effort from the floor to finish with 21 points in a 103-100 loss to Indiana on Feb. 6 - the last meeting between the clubs.
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