Pacers need win over Warriors to avoid 0-4 trip

Two teams involved in tight playoff races go head-to-head Thursday night when the Indiana Pacers visit the Golden State Warriors.

The Pacers (44-28) are battling Boston for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in their projected first-round series.

Indiana has lost three in a row to start its four-game Western swing, and things don't get any easier after facing the two-time defending champs on Thursday.

The Pacers return home for just one game -- against Denver -- before heading back on the road to take on Oklahoma City and Boston.

Indiana and Boston will meet two more times during the regular season, once apiece at each site. The teams split the first two games of their season series.

As much as they're looking forward to getting back home, the Pacers are looking forward to the return of point guard Darren Collison, who sat out Tuesday's 115-109 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers with a bruised right quad.

He's unlikely to play at Golden State.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan inserted Cory Joseph into Collison's starting spot against the Clippers, but he was most impressed by the performance of his backup, Tyreke Evans.

After not having scored in double figures since Feb. 22, Evans exploded for 19 points in 29 minutes in Los Angeles, while also contributing eight rebounds and seven assists.

"This is what we knew he could do," McMillan assured reporters afterward. "I told him a long time ago: Hoop. Play. He really showed what he could do with the basketball. We're going to need him to do that."

Evans admitted he enjoyed getting back to his roots as a point guard, a role in which he's burned Golden State in the past. As a member of the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies, he's recorded eight 20-point games against the Warriors.

"That's how I played when I first got into the league," Evans insisted after Tuesday's loss. "I'm a creator. It's like (the Clippers') Lou Williams. He's always in the pick-and-roll. He's putting pressure on the defense. That's my style of play."

While the Pacers, who have been without star Victor Oladipo, figure to be short-handed at Golden State, the Warriors expect to be at full strength.

DeMarcus Cousins, who missed two games with an ankle injury on the Warriors' just completed 3-1 trip, likely will return to face the Pacers, pushing newcomer Andrew Bogut into a reserve role.

Signed for the rest of the campaign after having played in Australia earlier this season, Bogut will be playing his first home game for the Warriors since the 2016 NBA Finals.

While Golden State fans might be most interested in seeing Bogut again, Golden State (48-22) finds itself needing to win as many games as possible in its quest to beat out Denver (47-22) for the best record in the West.

The Warriors will play seven of their last 12 at home, including a showdown with the Nuggets on April 2.

"It's definitely a different mind-set," Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted Tuesday night after his club completed its trip with a 117-107 win at Minnesota. "Each game takes on more importance. Last year, I think the final 20 games, we kind of knew we were going to be the 2-seed, so it's a little different this year, and I think it's going to help us."

--Field Level Media
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