National Basketball Association
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                    === Pacers, Rockets set for showdown ===
 ( - The Indiana Pacers will try to avoid their first three-
 game losing streak of the season Friday night, but it won't be easy as they
 visit the Toyota Center to face the Houston Rockets.
 After a five-game win streak was halted by the Golden State Warriors on
 Tuesday in Indianapolis, the Pacers lost two in a row with a 109-87 setback in
 Charlotte on Wednesday.
 "Over the last 20 games or so, we just haven't had our mojo," admitted David
 West. "We've got to change some things up because these last 20 games is going
 to be a battle."
 The Pacers own a two-game lead over the two-time defending champion Miami
 Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference and are the only team to
 clinch a playoff berth already.
 Evan Turner led the way with 22 points off the bench, while leading scorer
 Paul George netted a season-low two points on 0-for-9 from the field.
 "The Bobcats are a great defensive team. All five players were dialed into
 everything he was doing. If he beat his man there was help. You just have to
 give them credit," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of how Charlotte defended
 George Hill (17), Lance Stephenson (12), Chris Copeland (11) and West (10)
 also scored in double figures. Roy Hibbert also had a rough night, scoring
 just four points.
 This is only the second time all season the Pacers have lost two in a row.
 Last time it happed was Dec.16-18 with losses at home to the Detroit Pistons
 and on the road to the Miami Heat.
 The Pacers responded the next time out with a 33-point decisive win. Their
 opponent the night they avoided a three-game slide? These same Rockets.
 "They were just a lot better than we were tonight, just all the way around the
 barn," Houston head coach Kevin McHale said of the Pacers on that fateful
 December night.
 Since that setback, the Rockets are 25-9. They've won three in a row, all in
 the month of March, and 13 of their last 15 to reach a virtual tie for third
 in the Western Conference.
 On Tuesday, Houston ended the Heat's eight-game winning streak at home, then
 one night later, the Rockets had little trouble on the road against the
 Orlando Magic. Houston left with a 101-89 victory.
 Dwight Howard had another successful trip back to Orlando, scoring 19 points
 with 13 rebounds Wednesday night. James Harden led Houston with 31 points,
 Chandler Parsons scored 15 of his 19 in the second quarter and Terrence Jones
 chipped in 17 points and 11 rebounds.
 The Rockets trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half but dominated
 the second half. Houston, which has won six in a row at home, hammered the
 Magic by 17 in the third quarter.
 Houston will host Portland on Sunday, then hits the road for a brutal three-
 game stretch against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls and the Heat.
 The Pacers have won four straight versus the Rockets, including two in a row
 in Houston. Indiana is 4-1 in its last five as the visitor in this series.
 03/07 10:26:03 ET

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