Gerald green

The Indiana Pacers built a team to withstand the perils of a long NBA season.

On Monday night, they showed why depth matters.

With Indiana playing without four key contributors because of injuries, Gerald Green scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, including a game-saving 3-pointer in the final minute, to help the Pacers fend off Atlanta’s furious fourth-quarter rally for a 100-94 victory.

”I feel good about our depth,” coach Frank Vogel said. ”If a guy goes down, it won’t be the end of the world for us.”

He should.

The Pacers, who haven’t won a division title since 2003-04, maintained their grip on the Central Division race, extending their lead over second-place Chicago to five games with 11 left on Indiana’s schedule. The Pacers’ magic number is now seven and they’re back in the No. 2 slot in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the Knicks…

Already playing without swingman Danny Granger, who missed another game with patellar tendinosis in his left knee, and forward David West, who has now missed five straight games with a lower back sprain, the Pacers got even worse news about an hour before tip-off when Vogel announced point guard George Hill would sit out with a strained left groin and swingman Lance Stephenson, Granger’s replacement, would miss the game with a strained right hip flexor.

Suddenly, Green, D.J. Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough, who has been filling in for West, were all in the starting lineup. But the Pacers just rolled on…

”We have to play better and I think we have to look at some things, some lineups and things like that, but I think it’s unacceptable to be up 25 points or 22 points at the beginning of the fourth and let it get down to four,” said Hibbert, who had 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. ”That’s just unacceptable.”

– Reported by Michael Marot of the Associated Press