The three teams battling for the final spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs were all in action on Monday night. Two of them were playing each other in a game that went down to the wire, as one of them escaped with a one-point win. The other game got a lot of attention, too.
The Charlotte Bobcats were able to pull out an 87-86 victory at home over the Milwaukee Bucks, positioning themselves quite nicely in the playoff race. It was a punch in the gut to Bucks fans, who will have another huge game on Friday against the Pacers that is almost a must-win game for them.
Darren Collison scored eight points in the final quarter, including the last two field goals, as the Pacers were able to defeat the Boston Celtics to rebound from their horrible performance this past weekend. The Pacers lost to the Kings and Pistons on Friday and Saturday, but were able to out-muscle the Celtics tonight, as they won 107-100 at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Roy Hibbert had a monster game, as he made the Celtics pay for going small. He finished with a game-high 26 points for Indiana, while Danny Granger added 18. Darren Collison finished with 17 points and his backup, A.J. Price, chipped in 15 points off the bench.
The game was back and forth most of the way, with each team holding a ten point lead at some point. The Pacers were able to make their shots in the fourth quarter, something that Boston could not do. The Celtics shot 4-for-14 in the fourth quarter and have lost seven of their last 12 games.
The game was tied late in the fourth, when the Pacers went on an 8-0 run to give them a nice cushion for the final three and a half minutes. Collison made a jumper with 1:16 left, then finished a fancy layup with 34.4 seconds remaining to give Indiana a 106-100 lead. After Boston was unsuccessful on a couple of three pointers, they waived the white flag in this one.
Both teams shot the ball well and in the case of the Pacers, Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison were feeling it. Hibbert was 12 of 17 on the night, while Collison was eight for nine.
The win gives the Pacers a 33-42 record on the season, as they get a day to rest before another home game with the Pistons. Detroit handled the Pacers fairly easily on Saturday night, so Indiana will be out for revenge. They will need to win these games against sub-.500 teams if they want to hold off Charlotte and Milwaukee.
After the games tonight, the Pacers have a one-game lead over the Bobcats and a three game lead over the Bucks. The Pacers own the tie-breaker with Charlotte, so their lead is actually two games. The Pacers will host the Bucks on Friday night and depending on how the next few days go, a win over the Bucks could almost officially put Milwaukee out of contention for the Playoffs.
The Pacers will play the Pistons on Wednesday night at Conseco Fieldhouse. The game is set to tip at 7 p.m.
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