Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (36-22) vs. Cavaliers (19-37)
Friday, April 13 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.
SCOUTING THE PACERS: The Pacers can clinch their second consecutive playoff berth with a victory Friday but the magic numbers this team is concerned about have been produced by opponents and have been troubling. Though they have won their last two games, the Pacers allowed sub-.500 opponents to rally from double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter both times. Toronto used a 15-2 run early in the fourth to cut a 79-64 lead to 81-79 before the Pacers held on to win 103-98. Cleveland took it a step farther Wednesday, putting together an 18-1 run to erase a 10-point deficit and force overtime before Indiana pulled out a 104-98 decision. That the Pacers showed the composure to make the necessary plays down the stretch was encouraging, but the slippage that put them in that position against lottery-bound opponents was troubling.
SCOUTING THE CAVALIERS: There's something about this team that gets to the Pacers. Though Cleveland is going nowhere and is missing two of its top players (point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Anderson Varejao), the Cavs have beaten the Pacers once and could easily be 3-0 against them rather than 1-2. Both losses came in overtime after the Cavs had chances to win in regulation. In the first, Irving missed a layup at the buzzer, and on Wednesday Cleveland led 86-79 with six minutes left but couldn't protect the lead. Antawn Jamison, one of the most unconventional but nevertheless effective power forwards in the game, hurt Indiana for 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists while young big men Tristan Thompson (10 points, eight boards) and Samardo Samuels (13 points, five boards) had moments of dominance.
KEY MATCHUP: If they didn't know that much about him before, the Pacers should have plenty of tape on Lester Hudson now. The journeyman guard on his second 10-day contract racked up 19 points off the bench and was the man most responsible for the Cavs' big run in the fourth quarter. Physically similar to former Detroit standout Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson, Hudson also can heat up in a hurry and must be contained.
QUOTE MARKS: "It's not something I'll use, like 'We win this, we're in.' I would think we all hope that we're going to get in the playoffs. We're more concerned with holding onto homecourt advantage and really just elevating our level of play. We've had two halves of play -- the second half against Toronto we allowed 55 percent shooting and the first half against Cleveland (Wednesday) we allowed 50 percent shooting. We want to put together four quarters of defense, really improve our disposition and really give ourselves the best chance to go into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league." - Pacers Coach Frank Vogel
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Darren Collison (sore groin) is day-to-day. For the Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving (shoulder), Anderson Varejao (wrist) and Daniel Gibson (foot) are out.
TICKETS: Buy now
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 and Bobby "Slick" Leonard.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.