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NBA Preview: Brooklyn Nets (26-40) at Indiana Pacers (37-30)

With better late-game execution, the Indiana Pacers might be on a five-game winning streak.

Instead, the Pacers are lamenting a pair of recent close losses and holding on to the sixth seed in the crowded Eastern Conference race as they host the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.

Indiana is chasing the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic in the race for fourth and home-court advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs. The Pacers also are directly ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat in the race to avoid a play-in game.

The Pacers are 7-5 over their last 12, but their most recent two losses are by a combined five points.

After Aaron Nesmith’s last-second layup was blocked by Anthony Edwards in Indiana’s 113-111 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 7, the Pacers could not stop DeMar DeRozan and suffered a 132-129 overtime loss to the visiting Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

DeRozan scored 46 points against the Pacers and it was the 16th time this season Indiana allowed at least 130 points.

Turner led the Pacers with 27 points, but Indiana’s defense allowed 52.2 percent shooting and five players in addition to DeRozan to reach double-figure scoring.

Brooklyn will face Indiana three times in its final 16 games and is hoping to catch the 10th-place Atlanta Hawks for the final play-in spot. The Nets beat the Hawks two weeks ago when they won three of four at home, but they are 1-3 on a six-game road trip that ends Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs. Brooklyn will go on a four-game trip after hosting the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

The Nets turned in one of their best showings Sunday by dominating the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 120-101 victory, but the follow-up was a dud. On Wednesday, Brooklyn never led in a 114-106 loss at Orlando when it scored 16 points in the first quarter and was forced to make a comeback attempt throughout the game.

Cam Thomas scored 21 points and has been Brooklyn’s leading scorer in three games since returning from a six-game absence due to an ankle injury, but the Nets also allowed the Magic to shoot 51.9 percent from the floor.

That continues a trend. On this road trip, the Nets have allowed better than 50 percent shooting three times, all losses.

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