The Pacers took a big step toward ending their postseason drought Wednesday night.
With Danny Granger scoring 33 points and Tyler Hansbrough adding 24, the Pacers all-but eliminated one of their closest pursuers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, blowing out the Bobcats 111-88 before 14,703 Wednesday night in Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.
With Milwaukee losing a stunner at home, 97-90, to Sacramento, the Pacers lead both the Bucks and Bobcats by three games in the race for the eighth playoff spot with 10 remaining. Indiana's magic number for clinching its first playoff berth in five years is nine.
While the Pacers own the season series tiebreaker against Charlotte, they have lost two of three to the Bucks, who they face on April 1 in Conseco Fieldhouse.
Granger scored 14 in the second quarter as the Pacers erased a 12-point deficit then added 10 more in the third as they built a 17-point lead and cruised home against a battered and dispirited Charlotte team.
D.J. Augustin led the Bobcats with 17 points.
With their fifth victory in seven games, the Pacers improved to 32-40 overall, 13-25 on the road and 15-13 under interim coach Frank Vogel. They swept the season series from the Bobcats, who fell to 28-42 with their fourth loss in a row and ninth in 11 games.
- "We just needed to pick up the defense. They scored 28 on us in the first quarter and that's really not evident of what we want to do on the defensive end. So we picked it up and I think we won every quarter after that." Granger
- "On nights like this, everything I put up feels good, even the ones I miss. I just kept making them and making them. It was just one of those nights. It happens sometimes." -- Granger
- "It meant a lot of us to get this win. We hold the (tie-breaker) over them so if it comes down to the wire we're going to be able to get into the playoffs." Brandon Rush
- "I don't know what it is (with slow starts). We're shooting the ball bad and we're not playing the type of defense we always play. But we always pick it up in the second and third quarter." Rush
STAT OF THE GAME
Granger averaged 27.3 in four games against the Bobcats this season, the most ever against Charlotte by a Pacers player in a single season.
With spiritual leader Stephen Jackson playing despite a strained hamstring, the Bobcats played well early. Jackson scored nine in the first quarter as the home team jumped out to a 27-17 lead, pushing it to 38-26 early in the second quarter.
But that's when Granger heated up, scoring seven in a row to spark a 17-4 run that put the Pacers up 43-42, and they held a 54-53 lead at the break.
Granger came out hot in the third quarter but the Bobcats stayed close until Brandon Rush hit three 3-pointers in a 15-4 run that pushed Indiana's advantage to 85-68 late in the period and the lead would be at least 13 the rest of the way.
Charlotte tried to surge early in the fourth, closing to 92-79 when Jeff Foster committed a flagrant foul against a driving Shaun Livingston but the Pacers responded with a 10-0 run punctuated by a Paul George slam that blew it open.
BY THE NUMBERS
Granger hit 11-of-19 overall, 2-of-4 from the 3-pont line and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line, adding five rebounds, three assists and two steals to his 33 points. Hansbrough was 8-of-10 from the field and 8-of-9 from the line, adding five rebounds to his 24 points. Roy Hibbert hit 5-of-7 shots and scored 13 points with 14 rebounds for his 18th double-double of the season, adding four assists and two blocks. Rush scored 11 off the bench. The Pacers shot 54 percent, outrebounded the Bobcats 37-28 and committed just 13 turnovers.
Augustin was 5-of-13 with four assists to go with his 17 for the Bobcats. Kwame Brown had 16 points and nine rebounds, Livingston 15 with four assists off the bench and Gerald Henderson 12 on 4-of-14 shooting. Jackson scored just two points after the first quarter, finishing with 11. The Bobcats shot 44.4 percent overall and managed just 35 points on 34 percent shooting in the second half, including 4-of-17 in the fourth quarter.
- This was the second game in a row in which the Pacers overcame a double-digit deficit to win, and the fourth time this season.
- Darren Collison limped to the locker room late in the second quarter after banging knees with Augustin but returned to play in the second half with a protective sleeve.
- Charlotte's Tyrus Thomas went down hard late in the third quarter after colliding with teammate Dante Cunningham and landing awkwardly.
- Rush scored double figures in consecutive games for the first time in 2011.
- Granger topped 30 points for the first time since Feb. 12 and the ninth time this season.
- Charlotte has failed to score 100 points for 12 straight games.
- The Bobcats are 3-10 since trading away Gerald Wallace.