The Indiana Pacers extended the NBA's longest current winning streak to five games Monday night with a 111-88 blowout win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Pacers (39-22) improved to 9-1 in the month of April, strengthening their hold on the third playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just five games to go in the regular season. The Timberwolves (25-37) lost their 10th straight game.
The Pacers never trailed, jumped in front 16-2, and built a 25 point lead in the first quarter against a Minnesota team playing without three key injured players (Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Luke Ridenour). The Pacers held the Timberwolves to just 36.8% shooting from the field.
"We talked about suffocating defense," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "That's what we want to go into the playoffs with. We want to go in with a head of steam, regardless of who we're playing. We don't want to settle for 45% field goal defense. We want under 40% field goal defense. We want to do it without fouling. That set the tone for us."
Offensively, all five Pacers starters scored in double figures, led by Danny West with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
"This is the time of year where you've got to be coming together," said West. "We're fine tuning some things offensively and trying to be a collective unit defensively. Then just play with a certain level of aggression, especially when we're dealing with teams that don't have anything to play for this time of year, like the Timberwolves."
Danny Granger played a complete game with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
"Our focus level is really high right now," said Granger. "We know what's at stake. We know what happens if lose a game and a couple of teams can catch us and we lose home court advantage in the first round. That's really the prize we're after right now."
The Pacers are trying to hold off Boston, Atlanta and Orlando for the third playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Jose Barea scored 14 points for the Timberwolves, who have not won since March 28th.
Point guard Darren Collison returned for the Pacers after missing four games with a sore groin. Collison played just under 19 minutes, but did not score. Coach Vogel said after the game that Collison will likely be out for Tuesday's game at Philadelphia.
"He's still a little passive," said Vogel. "He still doesn't have his explosiveness. He felt like it was pulling on him the whole night. We're going to give it a few more days to see if get it 100 percent."
The Pacers play their final road game of the regular season Tuesday in Philly at 7:00 pm. The Pacers finish the regular season with four consecutive home games.
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