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Raskolnikov
04-14-2006, 07:51 AM
Four games left. Four playoff berths up for grabs. Two games separating the five competing teams.

It all adds up to one concern for the Pacers players: themselves.

Regardless of what happens around them, the Pacers enter the final week of the regular season focused on continuing to build on the momentum from their first winning streak in six weeks in order to give them the ability to springboard into the postseason.

"As a player, you don't want to look at the actual standings," said Jermaine O'Neal. "You just want to worry about what you can control, and that's playing good basketball and winning games. If we win out, we're going to be fine, no matter what our seed is. Right now, we want to be happy about the strides we're making but we haven't arrived by any means. We still have a long way to go to get back to having that confidence as a team of knowing whoever we play we can beat."

O'Neal's play of late has been one of the reasons for optimism. He had 15 rebounds, his highest total since Jan. 24, to go along with 21 points, seven assists and two blocked shots in Wednesday's 117-112 victory over Boston. He has averaged 18.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.0 blocks in the last seven games.

"He's getting so much attention now that he's going to have a great impact on what happens offensively not only with his scoring but his ability to pass out of double-teams and swarms in the post," said Coach Rick Carlisle. "(Wednesday) night, seven assists and no turnovers was really strong evidence of just that. He's getting back to the point, conditioning-wise, where he's starting to get his legs under him, get his rhythm back, his outside shot is looking better. He's our main guy so he's going to be critical for us."

O'Neal's adjustments have been twofold. Because of the nature of the groin injury, he was unable to do much conditioning work for the two months he was out and has had to catch up on the fly. The offense also changed, shifting away from the post to the perimeter with the acquisition of Peja Stojakovic. O'Neal's return has brought a renewed emphasis on interior play, but not as an exclusive focus. And that's fine with him.

"More than anything, the offense has changed," he said. "We don't come down, throw the ball in the post and have me go score it every time. When you do that, you don't get many assists. I like passing. I really believe once you soften the defense up and get the perimeter guys going they can't double as much anymore. They're going to stay home and let you play one-on-one. The offense that we have is tough to guard because we've got so many guys coming off screens or pin-downs, it makes it easier for me to find open guys. It's kind of like pick your poison when I get the ball."

At 38-40, the Pacers are one game away from either fifth place or the lottery, a precarious perch. They've won two in a row overall and three straight at home, showing signs that they're emerging from a month-long funk.

"We've got to concentrate on ourselves and try to keep playing well here, now that we've had a couple of good games, and control our destiny as much as we can," said Carlisle. "If you've got to rely on other teams losing or other teams beating other teams, it's not a very good position to be in. And in many ways, we control our own destiny, so we've got to make it happen."

Minnesota (33-46) is playing without its primary scorers, as Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis both are not on the current road trip. Even so, the Timberwolves won in Houston 82-79 Wednesday night to snap a 14-game road losing streak. Former Indiana University guard Bracey Wright was recalled after leading the NBDL in scoring and is playing a prominent role off the bench, including a season-high 13 points against the Rockets. <HR>TRENDS
Austin Croshere has averaged 15.3 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 18-of-29 overall (.621) and 8-of-17 from the 3-point line (.471) in the last three games. The Pacers are 6-2 when Danny Granger scores at least 15 points. Stephen Jackson has averaged 20.7 points in the last six games. . Peja Stojakovic has averaged 23.2 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting .506 overall and 16-of-29 from the 3-point line (.551) in the last five. Jamaal Tinsley has 16 assists against four turnovers in the last two. The offense has averaged 109.7 points, 26.7 assists and .433 shooting from the 3-point line in the last three victories. The bench has outscored the last two opponents 69-54. The Pacers have outrebounded the last two 82-56. <HR>KEY MATCHUP
Though their primary scorers are all out, the Timberwolves have some explosive young guards in Rashad McCants, Marcus Banks and Bracey Wright, recently recalled after leading the NBDL in scoring. Any of the three are capable of getting a roll much like Boston's Gerald Green did Monday night and could pose a major challenge to the perimeter defense. <HR>INJURIES
Pacers - C David Harrison (right knee) is probable; G Fred Jones (left thumb) and C Jeff Foster (back) are out. Timberwolves - G Rashad McCants (ankle) is questionable; G Anthony Carter (right foot), G Ricky David (groin), F Kevin Garnett (right knee) and G Troy Hudson (right ankle) are out.


http://www.nba.com/pacers/news/preview_060414.html

Raskolnikov
04-14-2006, 07:54 AM
Apparently Jeff is out (for how long?; anybody know anything?).

So let's hope David plays, but only when he's completely healed.

Chauncey
04-14-2006, 08:22 AM
KG's not playing..if the Pacers can't beat the T-Pups without KG, its a sad, sad world.

Moses
04-14-2006, 09:42 AM
The Wolves are abysmal without KG.

They are abysmal even when he's playing. If we lose tonight, It will be a sad, sad world.

Raskolnikov
04-14-2006, 09:58 AM
Well yeah, I guess for once we're less injured than our opponent is.

Let's take advantage of that, guys!

Mourning
04-14-2006, 10:18 AM
Aren't Ricky Davis and Rashad MacCants doubtfull aswell?

MagicRat
04-14-2006, 10:40 AM
Aren't Ricky Davis and Rashad MacCants doubtfull aswell?

Ricky Davis isn't on the trip, but they have the high scoring Bracey Wright!................

CableKC
04-14-2006, 12:36 PM
Freddie and Harrison are out...and Foster should be out.....I sense big minutes for Granger. But this is mainly cuz Carlisle has no choice but to play him.