The Indiana Pacers have clinched the Central Division title, but the second seed in the Eastern Conference is still at stake, and they hope to improve their chances Tuesday night when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Pacers have dropped two in a row, and, with the New York Knicks surging, Indiana has fallen 2 1/2 games behind the Knicks for the No. 2 seed. The two squads meet April 14 at Madison Square Garden.
That means, don't expect many Pacers to start sitting games and resting for the playoffs.
"Having the highest possible seed gives you the best chance in the playoffs," head coach Frank Vogel said. "That's our first priority. As long as there's some wiggle room within that, it takes priority over rest."
Indiana was keeping pace with the Knicks, who have won 12 straight games. The Pacers won five in a row, but that run was abruptly snapped on Friday when they fell, at home, to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 97-75.
One night later, the Pacers lost in Washington, 104-85.
The Wizards buried the Pacers in the second half on Saturday. Washington outscored the Pacers 53-37 over the final 24 minutes and Indiana, one of the league's best defensive teams, couldn't handle John Wall.
He went off for 37 points, while only three Pacers scored in double figures.
"He was too much for us to handle tonight," Vogel said of Wall.
The Cavaliers are playing some good basketball after a 10-game losing streak. Cleveland has won its last two - a 97-91 road victory over the Boston Celtics and a 91-85 home win over the Orlando Magic.
"I think the biggest thing it says is, they haven't given up," said Cavs coach Byron Scott. "They haven't quit. Like we have been saying, they are going to play it out. We are going to keep playing as hard as we can and keep trying to learn and keep trying to develop as a team."
Tristan Thompson has been a revelation for Cleveland during these two victories. Against the Celtics, Thompson went for 29 points and 17 rebounds and on Saturday, he posted 15 points and 16 rebounds.
"I am not looking for him to average 22 and 16, but I think that double doubles are something that is definitely very possible for Tristan," said Scott.
Kyrie Irving has been slumping, averaging just 10.0 ppg over the last two.
The Pacers have swept the season series with Cleveland thus far (3-0) and have taken five in a row and 11 of the last 12 meetings. The Cavaliers have dropped five straight in Indiana.