Brooklyn at Indiana

Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Even after the Indiana Pacers pushed the eventual NBA champions in the playoffs last season, few may have expected them - without Danny Granger - to finish ahead of a Brooklyn Nets team that made strong offseason moves.

That can officially become reality Friday night when Indiana looks to clinch the third seed in the Eastern Conference with a victory over visiting Brooklyn.

Indiana had Miami on the ropes in the 2012 East semifinals before bowing out in six games, and it appeared to be one of the biggest threats to the Heat coming into 2012-13.

Then the news came just before the season that the Pacers wouldn't have Granger, their leading scorer the last five years, for at least the first three months because of a knee injury.

Despite Granger playing only five games before opting for surgery, Indiana (49-29) won its first Central Division title since 2003-04 behind All-Star Paul George, who scored 14 points to help the Pacers overcome a 20-point deficit in a 99-94 win over Cleveland on Tuesday.

Coach Frank Vogel's ejection in the third quarter seemed to spark his team. The Pacers were coming off two embarrassing defeats, 97-75 to Oklahoma City last Friday and 104-85 at Washington the following night.

George Hill scored a team-high 27 points to aid the comeback Tuesday.

"We couldn't have three blowouts in a row. We want to close the season out on a good foot," George said. "When coach went out, we really had to pull it together. We knew the fourth quarter is the way we play. We were really struggling."

Brooklyn also is likely headed toward home-court advantage in the first round, one of many goals set by the organization after re-signing Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries and trading for Joe Johnson.

Williams has been the catalyst as the fourth-place Nets (46-32) have won three straight. He scored 29 points and added 12 assists in a 101-93 win at Boston on Wednesday.

The point guard has averaged 25.5 points and 54.8 percent shooting in his last four games, considerably better than his season numbers of 18.7 and 43.9.

"We say it every game - he's playing like one of, if not the, elite point guards in the league," interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said.

With Johnson still not 100 percent recovered from a strained quadriceps and the team having lost Wallace to a left heel contusion Wednesday, Williams has had to step up his game as the Nets prepare to make their first postseason appearance since 2006-07.

"Whenever two (people are covering) the ball, he makes the right play," reserve Jerry Stackhouse said of Williams. "I think once he mixes it up, it's like pick your poison."

Williams has averaged 28.8 points in his last four games versus the Pacers, though he sat out an 89-84 overtime victory in the most recent meeting Feb. 11. Lopez finished with 25 points and Reggie Evans added 22 rebounds to help overcome 22 points from Hill.

Wallace missed a 97-86 win over Indiana on Jan. 13 because of bruised ribs, and it's uncertain if his injured heel will keep him out of this contest.

Brooklyn has held Indiana to an average of 84.7 points while winning the last three matchups following a 10-game losing streak in the series.

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Brooklyn4th Atlantic 2161.256350-10Lost 10
Indiana2nd Central 4537.549127-3Won 3

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C LeVertFoot
No injuries reported.
Key Players

Min. Per Game 28.7 Roy<br>Hibbert
, C
Pts. Per Game 11.9
Ast. Per Game 1.5
Reb. Per Game 8.3
Field Goal % 44.8
Three Point % 25.0
Free Throw % 73.6
Team Rankings
Brooklyn Nets1090.58
Indiana Pacers496.14
Series Game Log
Dec 15 @ New Orleans 
Jan 16Indiana 
Other Games
Phi 97 Final
Wash 86
Chi 88 Final
Tor 97
Mil 104 Final
Atl 109
NY 101 Final
Cle 91
Char 93 Final
Det 113
Bos 101 Final
Miami 109
LAC 96 Final
NO 93
Mem 82 Final
Hou 78
Den 105 Final
Dal 108
Sac 101 Final
SA 108
Min 100 Final
Utah 107
OKC 106 Final
Port 90
GS 116 Final
LAL 118