Consecutive losses by Milwaukee earlier this week has the stumbling Philadelphia 76ers closing in on the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth. Inching even closer against the streaking Indiana Pacers, however, doesn't look likely.
The Sixers magic number to clinch a postseason berth is just two with four games remaining but things remain tougher than they seem since Philadelphia's final four regular season games are all on the road, against the Pacers, New Jersey, Milwaukee and Detroit.
The Sixers could clinch the playoff spot tonight with a win over the powerful Pacers coupled with a loss by the Bucks, who host the lowly Nets in Milwaukee.
The Sixers did halt a three-game slide on Wednesday by opening up a season- ending five-game trek with a 103-87 win in Cleveland. Jrue Holiday went 6- for-6 from three-point range en route to 24 points in that one.
Andre Iguodala recorded a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young finished with 12 points apiece as Philadelphia opened up a three game lead over Milwaukee after the Bucks lost to the Wizards on Wednesday and Pacers on Thursday.
"I think, with our team, we're kind of passive," admitted Holiday. "Guys on the team want to make the extra pass and sometimes you do have to be a little selfish."
After an impressive 20-9 start on the season, however, the Sixers have gone just 12-21 since.
Indiana, meanwhile, continued to roll on Thursday when Danny Granger scored 29 points and George Hill had 22 in the Pacers 118-109 win over the Bucks.
The Pacers, seeded third in the Eastern Conference, secured home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with their season-high seventh straight win.
"Very excited to lock home up court in the first round," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "We're excited with where we're at. Our guys are playing with the big picture in mind."
David West added 21 points and 14 rebounds in the victory, Paul George scored 14 and Roy Hibbert finished with 12.
Indiana is in the midst of its longest winning streak since a seven-game spurt from Feb. 28-March 12, 2004.
Indiana has won two of three over the Sixers this season, including a 102-97 win in Philadelphia earlier this week.