Thursday, April 4 at Washington, 7 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (32-21) vs. Wizards (12-41)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Not once in the first 44 games of the season did the Pacers rally from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to win. Since breaking that trend March 22 on their last visit to Washington, they've made a habit of it. The Pacers came back from 22 down in the second quarter, 19 in the third and 11 in the fourth to beat the Wizards 85-83 in that game, and put together two more fourth-quarter comebacks in their last two. Down 10 in Houston, they rallied to force overtime and win 104-102. Down 15 to the Knicks Tuesday night, they came all the way back for a 112-104 victory. Danny Granger was the common thread in the last two games, racking up 27 points in the fourth quarter and overtime alone. The Pacers struggled with the Wizards at home last Thursday, eking out a 93-89 decision.
With Orlando on a four-game losing streak, the Pacers have won three of four to vault into third place in the Eastern Conference, one-half game ahead of the Magic. After tonight's game, they finish with nine of 12 at home and have a golden opportunity to build momentum heading into the postseason. They're 7-3 since the trade for Leandro Barbosa.
SCOUTING THE WIZARDS: A remarkably young team with seven players in either their first or second NBA seasons, the Wizards have given the Pacers fits but failed to protect leads in both losses. After blowing the 22-point lead in Washington, they were up eight in the third quarter in Bankers Life Fieldhouse before the Pacers rallied. They're 10-26 since Randy Wittman took over for Flip Saunders and have made strides. In their last 12 games, they've limited opponents to 92 points and 43 percent shooting.
Individually, John Wall has picked up his game, averaging 16.6 points, 8.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds since the All-Star break. Jordan Crawford has averaged 17.8 in that same span and has scored at least 20 in nine of the last 11 games. Rookie big man Kevin Seraphin has averaged 11.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in the last 11. Nene has averaged 14.8 points and 9.3 rebounds in six games since being acquired from Denver and has been battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot, missing the last two.
KEY MATCHUP: The Wizards have a fast, athletic and explosive backcourt tandem in Wall and Crawford, and both have been playing at a high level since the All-Star break. The Pacers have been challenged to contain those two and Darren Collison, Paul George and friends will need to buckle down, ignore that they're playing their fourth game in five nights and summon the energy.
QUOTE MARKS: "We seem to be able to get over the tough games and fall short in the next one. We've got to move on to the next game and stay focused because the next one is just as important as this one." - Paul George
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, none are reported. For the Wizards, Nene (foot) and Trevor Booker (foot) are day-to-day, while Rashard Lewis (knee) and Andray Blatche (conditioning) are out.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Austin Croshere calling the game with Brook Olzendam hosting the pregame show starting at 6:30. The radio broadcast will air on WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.