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Game Recap: Pacers hold off surging Bucks, 103-96

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks
Aggressive play down low and on defense spark a Pacers win
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

After a tumultuous start to their current road trip, the Indiana Pacers pick up a statement win against the Milwaukee Bucks, 103-96. The Pacers record improves to 35-27 overall as they snap a two-game losing streak. Fans can hold off on the panic button after losing to two consecutive 18-win teams. Updated standings still have the Pacers firmly in fifth place in the Eastern Conference as well as second in the Central Division. On a night the Pacers could have fallen as far as seventh in the conference standings, they are looking to move into a potential virtual tie for fourth place in the East with their upcoming matchup at Washington.

Tonight’s stat line was once again highlighted by the efforts from Victor Oladipo, as he finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists. It was not his most efficient night as he finished 9-19 from the floor and just 2-6 from downtown. When he was called upon in the second half, Oladipo would deliver as we have grown accustomed to him doing night after night. On the bench, Lance Stephenson once again shined in 26 minutes of play. Born Ready would finish with 16 points and a +6 rating while on the floor, the highest on the team this evening.

The Bucks were held back offensively by a Pacers defense that collected eleven steals on the night. MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo was held in check with a 6-18 night from the floor. Granted, he still found a way onto the stat sheet with ten free throws made, totaling 24 points. The Pacers did not seem to find an answer for Khris Middleton, as he came out firing on all cylinders. Middleton would finish with a game-high 30 points on 11-21 shooting.

The Pacers as a team lost the turnover battle 15-14, yet still capitalized on their opponent’s misfortunes more often, winning the points off turnovers battle 21-13. The Pacers also took advantage of opportunities in the fast break, winning that category 17-12. For those who have wanted to see more aggressive play down low, the Pacers won the points in the paint margin by double digits at 42-32. The Pacers would take the lead in the third quarter and would never give it back as they outscored Milwaukee 33-21 in the third frame. Despite a late surge that brought the game as close as three points in the fourth, free throw shooting from Bojan Bogdanovic would prove too little too late for the Bucks, who dropped their fourth game in a row.

Looking ahead the Pacers are slated to battle conference foes in the Washington Wizards on Sunday. Tipoff for that game will be at 6 pm Indianapolis time. The Wizards come into the game 36-27 on the season, a full game ahead of the Pacers in the conference standings. Early injury reports indicate that both teams will be without their starting point guards, Darren Collison and John Wall, as they both recover from knee injuries.