The New Orleans Hornets have pulled off some impressive wins lately. Now they need to get some on the road if they plan to stay atop the Western Conference.

Though this six-game road swing comes against the weaker Eastern Conference, the Hornets face some tough obstacles on the trip and the first one is Tuesday's matchup with an Indiana Pacers team riding its longest win streak of the season.

Recent victories over San Antonio, the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston and Boston have helped New Orleans (47-21) take a slim lead in the West, though the conference's top six teams are separated by just 2 1/2 games. However, all of those wins came at home, and the Hornets must play 10 of their final 14 games on the road.

They haven't been nearly as good away from home lately, with the only victory in their last five road games coming against a New York team which has the second-worst record in the East.

Besides the Pacers (29-41) having won a season-high four in a row, they have won a season-best five straight at home and are fighting for the final playoff spot in the East. They're 1 1/2 games back of Atlanta for eighth place with 12 games remaining.

Each of New Orleans' next four games after Tuesday come against teams which currently would make the playoffs, including three of the East's top four. The Hornets visit Cleveland on Wednesday before facing Boston, Toronto, Orlando and Miami.

They did just beat the best team in the East, knocking off the Celtics 113-106 on Saturday behind David West's 37 points.

"We're confident in what we can do and we make sure, regardless if we're up, if we're down, that we play the same way and hopefully that consistency can carry us through to wins," West said following his second straight game after missing five of seven with an ankle problem.

"Regardless of who we're playing, if we buckle down on defense at that crucial point, we'll be able to pull it out."

Indiana has averaged 115.6 points in five home games this month with Mike Dunleavy averaging 28.2 points.

Dunleavy scored 25 points and Troy Murphy added 24 on Saturday as the Pacers won 108-101 at Chicago.

"Our offense is pretty good," Murphy said. "We move the ball and hit open guys and they make shots but defensively we struggle sometimes. We have to work on that every day and it's a challenge for us but I think we're getting better and we have to try to improve to make the playoffs."

The Pacers have given up more than 100 points in 15 of their last 17 games, allowing opponents to shoot 48.1 percent from the field and 43.2 percent from 3-point range.

However, they held the Hornets to 39.1 percent shooting and 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) from beyond the arc in a 105-93 win at New Orleans on Nov. 21 in the only meeting this season. Chris Paul was limited to eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, but that was back when the Pacers had Jamaal Tinsley to defend him.

The veteran point guard has missed 24 of the last 27 games with a sore left knee, and it remains unclear when he will return.

It's possible, though, Indiana is on the verge of getting Jermaine O'Neal back in the lineup. He has missed 30 consecutive games with a bone bruise in his left knee, but returned to practice last week and is getting closer to full strength.


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