The Indiana Pacers won their sixth in a row and 10 of their last 11 games as Danny Granger scored 24 points and Roy Hibbert added 13 rebounds to beat the Philadelphia 76ers on the road, 102-97 Tuesday night.
The Pacers are fending off Boston, Orlando and Atlanta for the third seed in the Eastern conference, working for home court advantage, while the Sixers are fighting to stay in the playoff race, falling to the final playoff spot, a game behind the New York Knicks and two games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The game started slow for both teams, as the score was 2-2 five minutes into the game. The Pacers leaned on their frontline of Granger, Hibbert and David West (13 points) to get things started while Philly went to their well-used, highly productive bench to step it up.
Philadelphia was on the attack offensively, getting inside enough to force 32 free throw attempts and make 24 of them compared to only 15-18 free throws for the Pacers, making the case for Philly to win. Andre Iguodala led the way for the 76ers, shooting 8-12 for his 23 points, adding also seven rebounds and six assists.
The Sixers have been struggling recently, losing seven of their last 10 games, including allowing 113 points to the Orlando Magic in their previous game. Against Indiana, though, they executed their defensive strategy well, daring the Pacers to take long shots. And indeed inside the three-point arc the Pacers struggled, shooting only 24 for 65, a 37 percent rate.
From beyond the arc, however, the Pacers excelled and burned the Sixers, making 13-24 shots, the difference maker in the box score. Granger, who shot a miserable 2-11 from two-point range, led the Pacers with six three-pointers while Paul George scored all three of his field goals from outside as well.
The Sixers made a run just after halftime to take a lead that they would hold for most of the third quarter, but a 5-0 run by the Pacers to end the quarter left the score deadlocked at 70 heading into the fourth quarter.
After trading some hoops to start the final quarter, the Pacers snapped off a 10-1 run to take an eight-point lead. Behind the run was Granger hitting back-to-back spot-up threes. The Sixers struck back with the fury of an Iguodala follow slam and a Jrue Holiday (eight points, all in second half) jump shot to cut the lead to three with a little more than three minutes left in the game.
The Pacers returned the favor when Hibbert (15 points) converted an and-1 off a loose ball, and then George knocked down his second three-pointer of the quarter, giving the Pacers a nine-point lead. Philly fought back, however, getting free throws from Louis Williams (18 points) and then a three-point prayer answered from Thaddeus Young (7-10, 19 points) to cut the lead to three with 48 seconds left.
After a West miss, Williams front-rimmed a three-point attempt and then the Pacers won the free throw end game to take the win.
For all of Tuesday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.