Chief among the obstacles tasked to a team chasing the top seed in its conference — not to mention much greater heights in the ensuing months — remains surviving the homestretch of the long grind of the regular season. With the playoffs lurking, it's tempting to look ahead.

These days, it's pretty simple: Win 'em easy, win 'em hard, win 'em ugly. For the Indiana Pacers and their lofty aspirations, the tough-to-come-by victories when they're not at their best remain every bit as precious as the more-celebrated triumphs over future playoff opponents.

In the end, they all count the same.

The Eastern Conference-leading Pacers demonstrated as much Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, holding off the stubborn Philadelphia 76ers 99-90.

Indiana is plenty happy to exit this one with its 50th win of the season, especially considering it shot just 38 percent from the field (including a ghastly 12-for-43 in the second half) and in the process, allowed a putrid Philadelphia team (one that entered the contest on a 20-game losing streak) to hang around and hang around and eventually close to as little as three points with less than 3 minutes to go.

And yet, the Pacers gutted it out, ugly but effective and in their own gritty fashion.

"You gotta win games like that," said coach Frank Vogel. "That's kind of been our trademark here the last couple of years: Win ugly. Certainly we won ugly tonight."