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  • The Pacers will continue to play without veteran forwards David West and Danny Granger. West will miss his third consecutive game with a sprained lower back, while Granger will miss his ninth in a row with left knee tendinosis. Neither is expected to play tomorrow in Chicago.
  • Monta Ellis will play for the Bucks despite missing the morning shootaround with a stomach ailment.  “He’s not feeling so well, a little bit weak, a dehydration issue but he’s going to give it a go,” Bucks Coach Jim Boylan said. “We’ll just monitor, keep an eye on him. We’ll see what happens during the game and go from there.”
  • Luc Mbah a Moute will miss his seventh straight game with a sprained toe, while Ersan Ilyasova will sit a fourth in a row with left hip pain. The Bucks have gone 2-4 since Mbah a Moute’s injury. Boylan said he was unsure when Mbah a Moute would return but that he hoped Ilyasova would be back for Sunday’s home game against Atlanta.
  • Granger was back at practice Thursday and went full speed for about 25 minutes, including a full-court scrimmage. Indiana Coach Frank Vogel characterized Granger’s performance as “encouraging.” Granger, who has played in just five games, might make his second attempt at a comeback next week when the team heads West for a four-game road trip.
  • Indiana is the second team in the East (after Miami) to clinch a playoff berth but is focused primarily on holding off New York (one game back) and Brooklyn (two games back) for the No. 2 seed. With a 5 and 1/2 game advantage over Chicago, the Pacers are a virtual lock for their first Central Division title since 2003-04. “We’re competing not to make the playoffs but to win the two seed and to win the Central Division,” Vogel said. “The fact we’ve clinched doesn’t really change our focus.”
  • Filling in for West, Tyler Hansbrough has made the most of his three starts this season, posting double-doubles in each while averaging 17.0 points and 11.7 rebounds in 24.7 minutes. “He’s a starter-level player. It’s that simple,” Vogel said. “He impacts the game in so many ways. He’s a maniac out there. He’s good for our team.”

– Conrad Brunner

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