- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Pacers are winning basketball games too late to do nearly anything but hurt their chances of getting a high draft pick.

Danny Granger scored 31 points to help the Pacers beat the Washington Wizards 99-82 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win.

Indiana is virtually out of the playoff race, and Granger knows that some Pacers fans would like the team to tank the rest of the season because a lower winning percentage increases a team’s chances at a top draft pick.

He doesn’t care.

“I really don’t believe in trying not to win,” he said. “I don’t even know how you can say that about a team, tell them not to win. It goes against every principle of sportsmanship that’s out there.”

Josh McRoberts had 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds and Troy Murphy had 12 points and 19 rebounds for Indiana. The Pacers won their sixth straight at home and sent the Wizards to a franchise record-tying 13th straight loss.

Washington remained on track for a high pick and can set a record for futility Friday at Charlotte. Coach Flip Saunders said the team was unaware of how many consecutive games they had lost.

“I don’t think our guys are looking at that,” he said. “We’re looking at trying to be competitive and look ahead. The reason we’re getting beat right now is because other teams are better than us. We’re not very good right now.”

Andray Blatche started for the Wizards a night after he was benched for most of the game following a spat with Saunders. He finished with 21 points in 39 minutes.

It was another poor offensive showing for the Wizards, who haven’t scored 100 or more points in any game during the losing streak. Though Blatche was productive and James Singleton had 19 points and a career-high 21 rebounds as a reserve, no other Wizards player scored more than 12 points.

“Offensively, we’ve been having trouble getting into sets,” Saunders said. “The only bright spot we had tonight was James was unbelievable. We played him a lot of minutes last night, and he played well, so we’ll probably have to look to make lineup changes the next game.”

Blatche scored 12 points in the first quarter, but cooled off after that.

The night before, he did not return after the first 7 minutes of the 95-86 overtime loss to the Charlotte Bobcats because Saunders said Blatche didn’t want to listen when he tried to talk to the forward about playing better defense.

Indiana led 49-42 at halftime and shot 49 percent before the break, despite making 1 of 12 3-pointers.

The Pacers opened the second half with back-to-back 3s by Murphy and Earl Watson to go up 55-42. A putback by McRoberts gave Indiana a 63-46 lead and caused the Wizards to call timeout midway through the third quarter. Washington made just 2 of its first 12 shots in the second half.

The Pacers pushed the lead to 20 on a 3-pointer by Granger with three minutes left in the quarter. Indiana led 74-58 at the end of the period.

Washington made a final surge early in the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Blatche cut Indiana’s lead to 81-71 before Granger took over. He took a handoff after throwing an inbounds pass, drove hard into the lane and clutched in midair before hammering down a one-handed dunk. He made a 3-pointer on the next possession to push the lead back to 15.

Granger scored at least 30 points for the third straight game.

“Three games, yeah, 30 points, but three wins too,” he said. “That’s the best part about it. It’s one of those things where you just keep winning and you wonder ‘What if this would have happened a month and a half ago, two months ago.”’<

NOTES: McRoberts started for just the third time this season. He played in place of C Roy Hibbert, who sat out with a sprained jaw after taking a hit Tuesday against Detroit. … The Pacers made just 8 of 15 free throws in the first quarter, and three of those were by A.J. Price in the closing seconds of the first quarter after he was fouled on a desperation 3-pointer. … Saunders was issued a technical foul for arguing with officials with 53 seconds left in the first half. … Pacers F Mike Dunleavy sprained his right ankle in the third quarter and did not return.

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