The Indiana Pacers are chasing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The New York Knicks just hope to be joining them in the postseason as they begin a tough stretch in their schedule without Jeremy Lin or Amare Stoudemire.
Indiana will try to snap a three-game losing streak against New York on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers (31-21) have won six of nine to pull within one-half game of Orlando for third place in the Eastern Conference, with Atlantic Division-leading Boston currently holding the No. 4 spot.
Indiana is coming off a 104-102 overtime win at Houston on Sunday. Danny Granger hit two free throws with 15.7 seconds left in the extra session and had a block at the buzzer, finishing with 32 points.
"We wanted to go 2-0 on this back-to-back," Granger said, lamenting a defeat at San Antonio on Saturday. "After the loss last night, it was great to get the win tonight against a really good team. ... We needed this win, and now we get to go home."
Granger went 6 of 8 from 3-point range and also had seven rebounds in his highest-scoring game since Feb. 16. That could bode well against the Knicks, who held him to a combined 20 points on 30.0 percent shooting while beating Indiana twice last month.
New York will have a much different lineup than the one that defeated Indiana 115-100 and 102-88 in a home-and-home set March 16 and 17.
Lin and Stoudemire hit the injured list last week, with each player missing the last four games. The point guard underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee Monday and could miss six weeks.
Stoudemire has a bulging disk in his back, expected to keep him out two to four weeks.
Still, New York (27-26) has won three of four without its second- and third-leading scorers and nine of 11 overall, including a 91-75 victory over Cleveland on Saturday.
The Knicks shot 39.5 percent, but took advantage of 20 Cavaliers turnovers, scoring 28 points.
J.R. Smith scored 20 points and Carmelo Anthony added 19. Tyson Chandler had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
"Well, the good teams do that, no matter who's in or out of the lineup," Chandler said. "So that's what we've got to do. We've got to win games whether they're ugly or pretty."
New York is two games ahead of Milwaukee for the East's eighth and final playoff spot.
While the Knicks took advantage of the struggling Cavaliers, their upcoming schedule could challenge their depth. Tuesday's game begins a tough five-game stretch, which includes visits to Orlando and the Bucks surrounding a home-and-home series with East-leading Chicago.
Without two of their top offensive weapons, the Knicks face additional pressure to keep up their defensive turnaround. Under interim coach Mike Woodson, New York has allowed an average of 86.3 points the last 11 games, compared with 96.5 before that.
The Knicks, though, have lost their last two on the road to fall to 9-16 away from Manhattan, and eight of their final 13 games are on the road.
"We've just got to hang in there together and keep the bodies that we do have healthy, keep them alert and ready to play when we step out on the floor," Woodson said. "The season is what it is. I mean it's not going anywhere. We've got remaining games left we've just got to take it one game at a time. We still control our own destiny and they've got to understand that."