INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers are eyeing an improved place in the Eastern Conference playoff race heading into the final weeks of the regular season.
Indiana gets another chance to bolster its position in the tight race Tuesday night when the Pacers host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Indiana (37-36) is currently in a three-way tie for fifth place in the East with the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks. Indiana has split the first two meetings with Atlanta, which it faces in the regular-season finale on April 12. The Pacers dropped the first three meetings with the Bucks.
Indiana also is 1 1/2 games ahead of the eighth-place Miami Heat fot the final playoff spot.
The Pacers took care of business Sunday with a 107-94 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Myles Turner totaled 17 points and 16 rebounds, which tied a career-high.
“I thought he played with more grit and attitude in the paint,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan of Turner, who totaled 37 points and 20 rebounds in the last two games. “He continues to grow. We needed that.”
Al Jefferson left the game with a sprained ankle and is expected to miss Tuesday’s game, with the possibility of missing several games. The Pacers are already without Glenn Robinson III (calf strain).
The Pacers will try to get consecutive wins for the first time since a seven-game winning streak Jan. 26-Feb. 6. Since then, Indiana is 8-14 and its latest attempt occurs before the schedule gets tougher.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, the Pacers start a three-game road trip that takes them to Memphis, Toronto and Cleveland.
“We want to start gaining momentum,” George said. “We don’t want to go into the playoffs with this win-loss streak. We’ve been on that pattern.”
Indiana’s longest winning streak of the season began with a 109-102 win in Minnesota when George scored 32 points.
Minnesota (28-44) has dropped six straight after winning eight of its 12 games to get into contention for eighth place in the West. The Timberwolves are six games out after Saturday’s 112-100 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Wolves trailed by as many as 24 points and allowed the Trail Blazers to shoot 62.5 percent. During this skid, Minnesota is allowing 115 points, 55 percent shooting, 43 percent from 3-point range and those figures add up to a 119.6 defensive rating.
Before this skid, the Wolves allowed 106.3 points per game and posted a defensive rating of 100.4 while getting wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors.
“Every team plays the same amount of games,” Tom Thibodeau told the Pioneer Press. “You get into stuff together, you get out of stuff together, and you have to be mentally tough. There are games that we’ve let get away that we should’ve won. That’s part of it. Learn from it and get ready for the next one.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 20 points and Karl-Anthony Towns added 16 Saturday. During this skid, Wiggins is averaging 25 points while Towns is averaging 24.5 points.
Towns had a big night in the first meeting when he collected 33 and 10 rebounds.
The Pacers have dominated the all-time series with Minnesota (35-18), especially at home (21-5). They have won the last three games overall between these teams.
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