Pacers fall 1½ games out of final playoff spot


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana's young team is still learning what
it takes to make a playoff run -- defend, block out and finish.

The Pacers didn't do any of those things Monday night against
Cleveland, and again it proved costly.

Ricky Davis came off the bench to score a game-high 32 points
and the Cavaliers' defense allowed just five baskets in the final
18 minutes as they ended a seven-game road losing streak with a
111-99 victory.

"We did a lot of positives," Cleveland coach John Lucas said.
"I don't think Indiana lost tonight, I think they got beat."

Even coach Isiah Thomas would find that tough to disagree with.

One night after falling out of the eighth and final spot in the
Eastern Conference playoff race, Thomas expected a better
performance from his team.

Instead, he saw more of the same as the Pacers' playoff hopes
took another big hit.

Indiana blew a double-digit lead for the 10th time this season.

The Pacers were outrebounded badly for the second night in a

Without Ron Artest, who did not play because of a sore left
heel, they had no answers for Davis, who made 12 of 15 shots in 30
minutes and scored 19 in the fourth quarter.

And when Indiana desperately needed a basket to stay close, they
couldn't get that either.

"You're not getting an opportunity to score when you're not
getting rebounds," point guard Jamaal Tinsley said. "We're down
on ourselves. If we did the little things, we wouldn't be right

If those things don't change, the Pacers could be in even worse
shape quickly.

Indiana has lost three straight and seven of nine to fall 1½
games behind Toronto for the final playoff spot in the Eastern

The Raptors, who have won all three games in the series, and
Pacers face off for the final time this season Wednesday night in a
game that could well determine Indiana's fate.

"If we lose Wednesday, whoa, that's the biggest game of the
season so far," center Brad Miller said. "It's going to take my
grandma going to church for a while to get us in."

For the Pacers, it has became a familiar story.

Indiana led by 12 points midway through the third quarter, but
the Cavaliers wiped that out with a defensive effort that yielded
only five baskets the rest of the way.

The other part of the equation was Davis, who finished three
points short of a season high. Davis has scored at least 20 points
in five of his last six games.

"I just got a lot of good easy baskets," Davis said. "I was
just feeling it, the basket looked real big."

Early in the third quarter, though, it appeared as if Indiana
would coast. The Pacers -- and Reggie Miller -- came out shooting.
Miller hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the opening minutes and it
appeared the Pacers took control when the Cavaliers lost control of
their emotions.

Guard Andre Miller was called for an offensive foul with 7:20
left in the quarter, and Tinsley retaliated with a kick. Both
players were called for technicals. When Cavaliers coach John Lucas
continued to argue, he, too, drew a technical.

Reggie Miller responded with a free throw and another 3-pointer
to give the Pacers a 69-57 lead.

Then the Cavaliers answered.

"Our defense in the third and fourth quarters was tough,"
Lucas said. "That was one of the best defensive efforts from my
team all year."

The Cavaliers got back in the game with an 11-0 run and took the
lead with an 8-2 spurt early in the fourth quarter when Davis
connected on two free throws with 9:42 remaining.

From there, Cleveland simply went to Davis, over and over.

"They wanted the game more than we did," Miller said. "We
need to get the glue off of our shoes or put springs in our legs.
This is just not fun and it will be tough."

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland,
while Jonathan Bender matched his career high with 20 points for
Indiana. Jermaine O'Neal added 18 points for the Pacers.

Game notes
Indiana has been outrebounded 95-58 in its last two games.
... The Cavaliers are 9-29 on the road this season. ... The Pacers
are 22-27 against the Eastern Conference with five games remaining
-- all against the East. Indiana will try to avoid its first losing
season in the conference since 1996-97.