The third night of a back-to-back-to-back proved to be no problem for the Indiana Pacers, who scored 68 points in the second half, finally putting some distance between them and the Milwaukee Bucks to cruise to a 23-point victory. As has been a recent trend with the Pacers, they didn't exactly instill confidence on the defensive end, and while it cost them last night against Phoenix, they didn't have quite the same issues with the Bucks, who struggled keeping pace with the blue and gold as the game wore on.
The Pacers actually won all four quarters, none by more than seven, but accumulative point differential really hurt Milwaukee despite their best efforts early. Monta Ellis primed himself for a huge night, scoring 9 quick points on his first four shots, as Indiana pounded the ball inside at the smaller Bucks front line, using the size of Roy Hibbert and the physical strength of David West to keep within distance of a focused and determined Milwaukee offense. The Pacers have really taken a step back on defensive intensity, especially early in games, as they allowed Milwaukee to shoot extremely well.
Mike Dunleavy's play into the second quarter was a big catalyst for the Milwaukee offense, as he dropped in 8 quick points including two three pointers. Fortunately for the Pacers, Dahntay Jones responded to both of Dunleavy's threes, to help lead what would a game defined by the Indiana bench. The second unit built a six-point lead that was quickly squandered by the starters and Brandon Jennings, but a timeout as Milwaukee gained the lead fueled a 13-3 run to close the half, helping the Pacers gain control of the game.
The Bucks played tough in the third quarter, not allowing Indiana to run away with the game, but a George Hill corner three would highlight a 9-0 run to push the game to 15 points. As opposed to last night, the Pacers were able to get the calls they couldn't get, living at the free throw line as the third quarter wore on, proving that despite bad calls one night, it generally all comes out in the wash on another.
The Pacers jumped up to 20 points as the third quarter came to a close, Jennings drilling a 3/4 length buzzer beater to give Milwaukee a glimmer of hope. As the fourth began, the game was effectively decided in the opening seconds when an Ersan Ilyasova three pointer that would've cut the lead to 13 turned into a pair of baskets from Dahntay Jones and George Hill, a seven point swing that crushed all of Milwaukee's momentum following the buzzer beater, and allowed the Pacers to roll to victory despite some hard fouls in the quarter between Dunleavy and Tyler Hansbrough.
The nice thing about back-to-backs in general is the chance a team has to erase a tough loss the night before. It's refreshing to be able to wash out the bad taste of a frustrating game almost instantly, and Indiana was able to do just that. Despite the foul differential the night before, the Pacers were active and able to get the calls tonight, stepping to the line 39 times, hitting 32 of them, and outscoring the Bucks by 18 in the process. It was also another night above 50% shooting, adding in 7 three pointers, six of which coming from Dahntay Jones and George Hill.
In general, while the defense remains an issue, the Bucks had no way of containing the Indiana front court, and awareness from those players opened up possibilities for the rest of the team. After a pair of poor showings, the bench led the way with 67 points, nearly doubling the Milwaukee bench total.
After the jump, a more on George Hill's season high.
- There was some interesting deception regarding the game tonight, most of which had to do with George Hill's effortless 24 points. Hill accumulated his season high total on just 9 shots, going 7-9 with three triples, and 8-9 from the line. Add in 5 assists, and Hill was a much bigger positive for the Pacers than he was in the first two nights of this back-to-back-to-back. In general, the Pacers play much better when Hill can lead the second unit, and tonight was another tremendous example.
- The Pacers front court, including Roy Hibbert, David West, and Lou Amundson really took it to the Milwaukee front line. In trading Andrew Bogut, the Bucks got a lot smaller, boasting 6-10 Drew Gooden as their tallest player. The matchup really favors Indiana so long as the blue and gold can contain Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, or at least force them into bad shots, because they have no one who can go toe to toe with Hibbert and West especially. The two combined for 31 points, and their effectiveness helped open up play for the wings to hit open threes or get good looks at the basket. The bigs also helped early as the Pacers lived on second chance points creating a sizable rebounding margin on the night.
- Indiana's wings did a tremendous job tonight really sticking it to the Milwaukee defense. Dahntay Jones was especially key from the corner three, but Danny Granger was quietly effective, getting 15 points on just 8 shots, getting 9 from the line. Leandro Barbosa was a little more fluid than he was in the last two games, dropping nine, including five trips to the charity stripe.
The frustrating loss to Phoenix will be Indiana's only blemish in their back-to-back-to-back, as the team moves to 27-18 on the year, and 14-12 on the road. They'll return home for a Monday night showdown against the Miami Heat, the final meeting of the regular season for the two teams. Indiana let one slip away in Miami two weeks earlier, giving them all the motivation they'll need to snap a five game losing streak to the Heat.