The Indiana Pacers again won big, tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks, in a game that looked like it would be a 48-minute battle when the first half wrapped up. The Pacers led 45-43, but didn't look in sync offensively, couldn't corral rebounds, and allowed Milwaukee to live on second chance opportunities. At the break, the Bucks had 15 offensive rebounds and 20 extra shots to make up for their poor shooting.
Out of the locker room, however, the Bucks ran into a Pacers team that was keyed in defensively, a loose cannon Larry Sanders was sent packing, and Brandon Jennings, in a 1-15 night, couldn't provide any help for Monta Ellis, who had 22 on 9-22 shooting. The third quarter was everything Pacers. Indiana outscored Milwaukee 28-11 in the quarter, a quarter led by one of the best defensive stretches for the Pacers all season. There was no hope for the Bucks anywhere on the floor when they were getting swatted out of the gym, leading to a 22-point victory, improving Indiana to 12-2 in the Central Division.
Tyler Hansbrough, in his third straight start, had another tremendous game in extended minutes, scoring a season high 22 points in a 22 & 12 double double. Tyler was 8-14 for the night, making plenty of great plays around the basket. He was helped by Paul George, who had 20 on 7-15 shooting. George had eight rebounds and six assists, but did stumble a bit with five turnovers. While the Pacers did lose the turnover battle 14-9, they did a great job defensively limiting Milwaukee's chances, allowing just 13 points off those turnovers, while Indiana scored 14.
Considering the Bucks finished the night up shooting 30.7%, the Pacers did a fantastic job keeping the Bucks off the offensive glass in the second half. While some of that was aided by Larry Sanders being ejected, the Pacers allowed seven OREBs in the final half, pulling ahead and winning the rebounding edge despite 22 Milwaukee offensive rebounds.
Roy Hibbert had a solid night, scoring 11, grabbing eight rebounds, and blocking seven shots. Hibbert was a monster defensively in the third quarter as a catalyst to Indiana expanding their lead. Whether Hibbert caught a whiff of the score of his alma mater's NCAA game at the half, he came out with a fire, changing the entire complexion of the game on the defensive end, killing any momentum Milwaukee might've had coming into the second half just down two.
While inflated a bit by ample garbage time, the bench did round up with three double figure scorers, but the bench highlight was definitely in Ian Mahinmi, who had his own reasons to play motivated with a French TV crew watching his night. Mahinmi scored 10 points and grabbed five boards, spelling Hibbert on some nice minutes. Jeff Pendergraph had 10 as well, continuing to play surprisingly well with the minutes he's gotten. D.J. Augustin finished up with 10 as well. Gerald Green came back down to earth following his pair of solid games, but did make some plays with three assists and no turnovers, showing he was at least a part of the game despite not scoring.
The Pacers shot just 12 three pointers, noteworthy for as heavy as they've leaned on that shot in recent games, assisted on 23 of their 38 field goals, and had 11 blocks for the night to really make the night look that much better. Indiana will be on the second night of a back-to-back tomorrow when they face another division foe in the Chicago Bulls. The Pacers currently hold a six game lead in the Central Division, as they look to sweep the Bulls and really put the division out of reach.