Pacers rout Bobcats 111-88, tighten grip on 8th

Indiana Pacers' Tyler Hansbrough (50) drives past Charlotte Bobcats' Boris Diaw (32) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, March 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Indiana Pacers' Tyler Hansbrough (50) drives past Charlotte Bobcats' Boris Diaw (32) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, March 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (Chuck Burton - AP)
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By MIKE CRANSTON
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 23, 2011; 11:29 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Danny Granger scored 33 points and the Indiana Pacers created breathing room from one of their closest competitors for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot with a 111-88 victory over the slumping Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

Tyler Hansbrough added 24 points and Roy Hibbert had 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Pacers, who moved three games ahead of Charlotte for eighth place by completing a four-game season sweep.

The Pacers turned a 12-point, second-quarter deficit into a rout behind the hot-shooting Granger, who scored 25 points in a 16-minute stretch bridging the second and third periods.

D.J. Augustin scored 17 points and Kwame Brown had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Bobcats, who got 11 points from top scorer Stephen Jackson as he labored through a hamstring injury.

Already holding the tiebreaker over Charlotte, Indiana interim coach Frank Vogel wasn't shy before the game in comparing the matchup to an "elimination game if you were up in the playoffs 3-1 or 3-2."

"We think this would be a knockout blow if we get this win," Vogel added.

They might just have done that with their sixth straight victory over the Bobcats.

Charlotte's roster was gutted by the trade that sent former All-Star Gerald Wallace to Portland last month, and couldn't keep pace with Indiana in its fourth straight loss and 10th in 12 games.

The Pacers were mired in a six-game losing streak. But behind Hansbrough's continued emergence and Granger's scoring, the Pacers have won two straight and five of seven.

Indiana, which entered the night also two games ahead of Milwaukee, took advantage of Charlotte's limited scoring options with Jackson hobbled.

Jackson, who has been slowed by the injury for the past month, sat out Saturday's loss to San Antonio and aggravated the left leg again in Wednesday morning's shootaround.

But Jackson returned to the arena in the afternoon and declared himself ready to go. It just wasn't pretty watching him try to run.


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