NBA

Granger, Pacers win third straight, topping Wizards

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Associated Press
4/4/2012 9:41:21 PM
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WASHINGTON -- Danny Granger walked to his locker singing "Nightshift" by the Commodores.

One of his teammates in the other room was belting out "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire.

A couple of can't-miss hits from the past on a can't-miss night for the Indiana Pacers.

The starting lineup shot 71 per cent Wednesday and completed a season sweep of the Washington Wizards with a 109-96 victory , taking advantage of a struggling team to get the type of win needed to hold on to the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

"I just think they're depleted," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "They have injuries and they have youth, and it's tough to win in the NBA in situations like that. We've got a veteran group that's dialed in to a tight playoff race."

Even with a few late misses from the bench in garbage time, the Pacers still shot a season-high 58 per cent as a team. Danny Granger led the way with 20 points, Darren Collison added 17 points and 11 assists, and Tyler Hansbrough and Leandro Barbosa scored 14 points apiece.

Indiana has won three straight and eight of 11 to move a game ahead of Orlando for third in the East.

"These are definitely games you've got to win," Granger said. "You can't take anybody lightly nowadays. Washington almost beat us a couple of weeks ago twice, so we had to come into the game with a lot of focus."

In the lockout-induced compressed schedule, the Pacers and Wizards had their three meetings crammed together near the end of the season, with Indiana winning the first two by a combined six points.

There was no such suspense this time, although the Pacers had their ups and downs. They were hot in the first quarter (87 per cent from the field), cold in the second (33 per cent), hot in the third (73 per cent) and did just enough to pull away in the fourth (40 per cent). They blew a 12-point first-quarter lead and trailed by one early in the third before Granger reasserted himself, teaming with Hansbrough and Collison to swing the momentum.

Collison's 21-foot jumper in the final second gave Indiana an 86-74 lead going into the final period, starting a 13-6 run that essentially decided the game.

"In the third and fourth quarter, fatigue wore us down," Washington's John Wall said, "and they took the game away."

Jordan Crawford scored 28 points, Kevin Seraphin had a career-high 19 points and added 10 rebounds, and Wall added 13 points for the Wizards, who have lost eight of nine and again went with a young lineup without injured forwards Nene and Trevor Booker. Both players missed their third straight game with plantar fasciitis in the left foot.

The Pacers were perfect from the field until Granger finally missed the mark with a jump shot with 5:56 to play in the first quarter. By the end of the period, Indiana was 14 for 16 from the field and 8 for 8 from the free throw line, with Granger scoring 13.

The Pacers were making so many shots they didn't have an individual offensive rebound until Lou Amundson's put-back dunk on a fast break with 8:56 to go in the half.

The Wizards are too raw and inexperienced to keep pace on most nights, and this was no exception. Crawford was again streaky -- he had 16 in the first quarter and tailed off from there. Wall was again inconsistent -- 4 for 15 from the field with five turnovers and just three assists. The Pacers' shooting percentage was the highest allowed by Washington this season.

"They made a lot of shots we couldn't afford," Crawford said. "They got a lot of easy shots. We didn't make them take tough shots."

Notes: The Wizards were playing the first of three games in three nights. They visit Detroit on Thursday and New Jersey on Friday. ... Brian Cook had season highs in points (10) and rebounds (nine) in his seventh game with the Wizards. He previously played 16 games with the Los Angeles Clippers this season.

Danny Granger (Photo: Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)
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