Rodney Stuckey preaches staying positive

Amid mounting losses, Pacers' shooting guard says team must stay confident and protect home court in finishing stretch.

Rodney Stuckey had just played one of his best games since joining the Indiana Pacers.

But the shooting guard’s team-high 22 points, seven rebounds and two assists were part of a 104-91 loss to the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Stuckey preached the importance of staying positive and the team’s need to protect the home court, with 21 of the remaining 35 games in their arena.

Time, however, is running out on this team. Staying positive might be the player’s mind-set, but the Pacers need to find some sort of combination that clicks if they’re going to contend for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

They enter Thursday night’s home game against the New York Knicks (9-37) at 3.5 games behind the Charlotte Hornets for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Here’s what Stuckey had to say after the loss.

Head coach Frank Vogel and Pacers President Larry Bird established making the playoffs as the team’s goal at the outset of the season. While that seemed rather optimistic, considering two-time All-Star Paul George is expected to miss the season with a broken leg, the Pacers aren’t out of that chase just yet.

As Stuckey reminded, the Knicks game is one they must win. That’s especially true when considering the remainder of the schedule isn’t as kind as some might think. While the Pacers play most of them at home, just 11 of those 21 final home dates are against teams with losing records.

The Pacers still have to host some of the NBA’s best, including the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs (30-17), Golden State Warriors (36-7), Chicago Bulls (30-17), the Raptors (31-15) again, Houston Rockets (32-14), Dallas Mavericks (30-17), Washington Wizards (31-15) as well as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (27-20) twice.

The remaining 14 road games include eight visits to teams with losing records. But the Pacers are 8-19 away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Staying positive might be important, but the time is now for better execution, be it creating shots on the offensive end or playing better defense at the end of the court.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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