The Indiana Pacers continued to show improved play, securing their first back-to-back win since early February. Indiana led much of the way against the Milwaukee Bucks, but had to contend with a healthy dose of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mirza Teletovic showing up with big shots and runs any time the Pacers managed to put a sizable difference on the scoreboard.
Antetokounmpo scored 25 points, 11 of those coming at the free throw line while Teletovic hit five of Milwaukee’s 11 three pointers. Fortunately for the Pacers, any reliable scoring from the Bucks was limited to those two, minimizing the potential damage Milwaukee’s runs could cause.
The runs by the Bucks were done through timely shot making, but Indiana built their lead and maintained it on a consistent effort. The Indiana defense was active, forcing 21 Milwaukee turnovers. Indiana was loose with the ball as well, coughing it up 17 times, but the Pacers outdid Milwaukee in points off turnovers, outscoring them 29-18.
The Pacers had 15 steals on the night, 10 of those coming in the first half. A frenzied stretch in the second quarter is what allowed Indiana to take the lead for good, scoring 10 straight by forcing the Bucks into six consecutive turnovers, featuring six steals by four different Pacers. Monta Ellis would lead the way in steals with five, scoring eight.
Paul George had four steals, leading the Pacers with 23 points. George continued his elite play by shooting 9-14 from the field, hitting difficult shots with ease and attacking the glass as part of a 10 rebound double double.
Thaddeus Young also completed his second straight double double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, four of those coming on the offensive glass. Indiana dominated the glass, outrebounding Milwaukee 44-32 and 11-6 on the offensive side. They did so without Lavoy Allen, as Kevin Seraphin stepped in scoring 11 and pulling in seven rebounds himself (two offensive). C.J. Miles was second on the team in offensive rebounds with three, scoring six and picking up three steals.
Jeff Teague scored 15 points with seven assists, making his biggest impact late in the third, scoring eight of Indiana’s final 13 of the quarter. Myles Turner looked on point early in the game, but foul trouble against Antetokounmpo made him less of a factor as the game progressed He shot just 3-8 on the night, though his action early was a big part in Indiana keeping pace early. He also come up with a highlight jam.
Lance Stephenson had a much quieter impact on tonight’s game, finishing with a modest nine points and five assists, but there was no doubt Indiana was still feeding off of the Lance Effect. Stephenson was effective in his pull-up jumper game, and even tossed a perfect three quarters court pass to Young for a crucial basket early in the fourth.
Tonight’s win pushes Indiana back into the 8th seed, if only temporarily as Miami sits idle, and allows them to keep pace with 7th seed Chicago, who also won tonight. As of this writing, Atlanta is up double figures at home against Boston, putting Indiana 1 1⁄2 games out of the 5th seed.
With only three games remaining in the regular season for the Pacers, there is still a lot to sort out in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, and even after tonight, they don’t control their own destiny. However, with Miami and Atlanta in particular facing difficult schedules late, the Pacers need to stay the course when they hit the road to face Frank Vogel and the Orlando Magic on Saturday.