An ugly start for both teams set the blueprint for what would eventually be the key to success for the Indiana Pacers, a mere 2-0 lead four minutes into the game giving way to a back-and-forth first quarter that would see the Pacers top the Milwaukee Bucks 23-21 thanks to scoring abilities of C.J. Miles and Roy Hibbert. In the second quarter, errant play from Indiana allowed Milwaukee to storm forward in transition to flip the script at halftime.
Milwaukee went on 14-4 run early in the fourth to take a five point lead, building on it at halftime, leading 53-46. The Bucks had 32 second quarter points, including 13 first half points off turnovers. Indiana's careless in passing, but also an inability to bring in rebounds created ample opportunities for the Bucks, who had no issue scoring in the second quarter.
Indiana struggled to make up ground in the third, but slowly began to shift the game into a grind-it-out style. After drawing to within two, the Bucks would hit just a single field goal in the next three minutes of action, giving up a Jared Dudley three late in the quarter that Rodney Stuckey managed to erase with a three point play of his own. In the fourth, the Pacers managed to finally break through.
Donald Sloan put Indiana ahead 73-72 and a pair of Miles three pointers put them in control up 81-76. A Lavoy Allen jumper would keep the lead at five halfway through the third, when both teams went ice cold for the third stretch of the night, where the only number moving was the game clock, with both teams blanking on the scoreboard for nearly three and a half minutes late.
Hibbert broke the stalemate, allowing Indiana to stay at arm's length from the Bucks, who struggled offensively late, going seven minutes without a field goal, eventually running short on opportunities as the Pacers would wrap up the 91-87 victory. The Pacers made the adjustments they needed to in order to stage the comeback, notably in their defensive game.
The 13 first half points off turnovers created too many opportunities for the Bucks to open the game up, something Indiana had no real chance of competing in, but in the second half, Indiana allowed 0 points off turnovers for the first 23 minutes of the second half. As well, the defense in general was on point after the break, as Milwaukee mustered up only 27 points before scoring 11 in the final minute.
The Pacers played well late, but struggled most of the night with locked in play. The lazy passing in the first half created the live ball turnovers that Milwaukee thrived on, but Indiana's slippery hands also favored the Bucks in rebounding and loose ball play. Indiana flipped the script late and came together in a hard fought game to grab the win.
In a battle of two of the highest scoring benches, the two teams tied 42-42, but it was Indiana's C.J. Miles who made the biggest difference on the night, scoring a game high 22 points, with four rebounds. Miles hit six three pointers, but nearly as importantly, swatted away Indiana's lone two blocks on the night. Miles's play since his November slump has been a runaway success, leading Indiana in scoring for the eighth time on the season.
Off the bench, Miles was given plenty of help by Luis Scola, who scored 14 points on 7-9 shooting, though he did miss both of his free throw attempts. Taking away the bench's 0-3 effort from the line, Indiana's free throw shooting was excellent among the three players that reached the line. Roy Hibbert, Solomon Hill, and Rodney Stuckey were a combined 16-17, led by Hibbert was 6-6.
Hibbert had 18 on the night to lead the starting unit on 6-11 shooting with seven rebounds. Rough shooting nights by Hill and Stuckey were alievated thanks to their free throw shooting, including clutch trips by Hill late. Stuckey had 11 as a starter and Donald Sloan reached double figures in a starting role sans both George Hill (groin) and C.J. Watson (foot), dishing six assists and pulling in eight rebounds, a team high with David West who also had eight boards.
In a bit of a season defining stretch for the Pacers in terms of relative health, but mostly in terms of light scheduling, Indiana has gone 5-2 in their last seven games, moving them to 14-21 on the season. The Pacers have won three of four on the road, a potentially positive sign with the team's final West coast trip of the season heading to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Sunday night looking for a repeat of the teams' last meeting.