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Insider: Pacers finishing robust to remain in playoff race - The Leader

The LeaderInsider: Pacers finishing robust to remain in playoff raceThe LeaderIndiana Pacers guard C.J. Miles () jumps out to defend Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook () in the second half of their game Sunday, April 12, 2015 evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers defeated the Thunder 116-104. (Photo: Matt ...Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder PreviewBlazer's EdgeRussell Westbrook scores 54, but suspension could kill OKC's playoff hopesSB NationFive Things We Learned in NBA Sunday: A lot of Westbrook may not be enoughNBCSports.comOregonLive.com -Philly.com -The Currentall 240 news articles »

Indiana Pacers guard C.J. Miles () jumps out to defend Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook () in the second half of their game Sunday, April 12, 2015 evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers defeated the Thunder 116-104. (Photo: Matt Kryger / The Star)Invest in Photo

The regular season is winding down and but the postseason is a hazy image. When six Eastern Conference teams have currently secured their permits to the playoffs, the basement, exactly where the final two teams will sneak in, remains a dark and undefined space.

Only two a lot more games, however a globe of ambiguity – simply because the Indiana Pacers hold making it so.

On Sunday, the Pacers after again refused to bow out of the playoff chase by earning their fifth consecutive win, a 116-104 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Indiana (37-43) has now matched the win-loss record of the 8th-seeded Brooklyn Nets, who lost earlier in the day to the Milwaukee Bucks. But the excellent news ends there: the Pacers still rank ninth all round and the Nets own the tiebreaker. So by Wednesday when the season ends and if the teams nonetheless share the identical record, Brooklyn will get the playoff berth though Indiana will get an early trip.

BOX SCORE: Pacers 116, Thunder 104

"We know each game matters for us and we've got to continue to play at this level to get in," stated George Hill, who scored nine through the fourth quarter and completed with 19 points and seven assists. "It just sucks that we do not control our personal destiny as far as needing aid from others. We just got to hope for the finest."

As the Pacers started pulling away in the fourth quarter, the Bankers Life Fieldhouse scoreboard operator flashed the final of the Nets-Bucks game to the sold-out arena. Players peeped the score, too. They have no energy more than their playoff destiny – a few undesirable losses in April denied them that correct – but the Pacers are accomplishing everything on their checklist.

Defeating everybody that dares step into their way. Verify.

"The only point we can control are the games on our schedule," David West said, "and in our locker room we're going to preserve performing that."

PLAYOFF STANDINGS

Here is a look at the race for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference:

Group

W

L

GB

7. Boston

38

42

-

eight. Brooklyn

37

43

1

9. Pacers*

37

43

1

10. Miami

35

45

3

*Brooklyn owns head-to-head tiebreaker.

The Pacers beat back the strong force recognized as Russell Westbrook and outfought a group that is just as hungry for the playoffs. Even though Westbrook showed the array of his expansive talent – and at times, his emotional tumult – his career-higher 54points (21-of-43 shooting) had been not sufficient for the Thunder (43-37), who like the Pacers rank ninth in their conference.

"We created some good runs at them and had been able to reduce it down," Westbrook said, "but we have been never ever able to get over the hump."

Right after Westbrook scored seven straight to tie the score at 88 with 7:54 remaining, he also aided in the Pacers' 12- run by choosing up a technical foul that led to a 4-point possession. If the technical stands, his 16th of the season, Westbrook will grow to be the initially player this season to reach the limit and serve a one-game suspension.

INDIANAPOLIS STAR

Doyel: Westbrook's one-man show helps Pacers' lead to

In a much far more calm style, the Pacers balanced the offensive attack with four starters in double figures, including C.J. Miles who scored 30 points (9-of-14 from the floor) and pulled down ten rebounds. Also, Roy Hibbert collected his third straight double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) and stuffed Westbrook twice at the rim.

"Each and every play is a major play," Miles stated. "Everybody is stepping up and generating large plays on each sides. When anything is significant, you have to lock in and just find methods to win games."

If only the Pacers had this exact same resolve nearly two weeks ago.

Through the early days of spring, the Pacers played a crucial back-to-back against Brooklyn and the Boston Celtics, the current holders of the final two playoff positions, and dropped both road games. The losses ensured that even if the Pacers wanted a shot at the postseason, then they would have to finish with much better records than both opponents.

Indiana has no time to regret those losses, or any other games that slipped via their fingers (Jan. 4 at Los Angeles Lakers, Jan. 10 at Philadelphia 76ers, Jan. 13 against the Milwaukee Bucks). But the ghosts of undesirable losses might come back to haunt them right after all.

"That is not fun figuring out that no matter how superior we're playing," Miles mentioned, "we're nevertheless depending on an individual else."

Insiders: Pacers get &quotbalance all about&quot Clark Wade / The Star

"We had two undesirable losses in a row in the head-to-head match and these had been tough losses," Ian Mahinmi said about the March 31 and April 1 back-to-back in Brooklyn and Boston. "But soon after that, we looked at every other and stated: 'What are we going to do? Are we just going to quit or are we just going to remain in the fight?' There ain't no quitters more than right here, so you know, right after that we just hold fighting. All the things is not in our handle but we try to manage what we can and that's to keep in the fight and try to win every single game."

Mahinmi has currently created his Monday evening plans: he'll be watching the Chicago Bulls-Nets matchup. A Brooklyn loss will propel the Pacers to the 8th seed. Having said that, Indiana still has two additional games remaining – the Washington Wizards on Tuesday and the season finale in Memphis. If Brooklyn loses Monday and the Pacers win out, then there will no longer be a foggy playoff image. It will clearly favor Indiana.

"The most significant issue is give ourselves a opportunity," Miles said. "If we don't give ourselves a likelihood, it would unquestionably not be enjoyable. I am just enjoying the moment with these guys, playing really hard and attempting to give ourselves a opportunity."

all Star reporter Candace Buckner at (317) 444-6121. Comply with her on Twitter: @CandaceDBuckner.

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