MILWAUKEE, WI – Despite two disappointing losses to open a big road trip, the Indiana Pacers (35-27) showed up when it really mattered on Friday.
Taking on the Milwaukee Bucks (33-29) in a game with serious playoff implications, Indy surged in the third quarter and held on for a 103-96 road victory. The win keeps the Blue and Gold in the five spot in the Eastern Conference standings and gives Indiana a two-game cushion over Milwaukee. It is also a big win because it currently gives the Pacers a 2-1 edge over the Bucks in their season series and guarantees them the postseason tiebreaker over their division rivals.
Indiana and Milwaukee will do battle one final time in just a few days, as the Pacers get the Bucks in Indianapolis on Monday night.
Friday’s ballgame was chippy from the very beginning. The first quarter of action featured five technical fouls alone, with three being called on the Bucks and two charged to Indiana. Milwaukee led after one, 21-18.
Quarter number two went back-and-forth. The frame was full of lead changes, with the Pacers outscoring the Bucks by a deuce in the second to make it a 46-45 game at the half.
Myles Turner led the Blue and Gold in the first half with ten points (3-for-3 from the field, 4-for-5 at the line) and five rebounds. Giannis Antetokounmpo (12) and Khris Middleton (11) combined to score 23 of Milwaukee’s 46 first half points.
It didn’t happen immediately, but the third quarter decisively belonged to Indiana. The Bucks led by five at the 7:00 mark of the period, but the Pacers would break through from there. Indy outscored the home team 25-9 the rest of the way, building up a 78-67 lead going into the fourth.
Indiana held on to their edge through the final quarter, but Milwaukee would not go down without a fight.
With the Pacers ahead by a game-high 17 points with 6:34 remaining, the Bucks caught fire. Milwaukee scored 12 unanswered points, making it a 93-88 game with 4:12 still on the clock. Victor Oladipo would respond with a much-needed triple, but the Bucks weren’t done yet.
Milwaukee came within four points on two occasions, but Oladipo fired back to keep Indy’s opposition at bay. The Bucks finally got within a single possession with 8.9 seconds to go, but a pair of Bojan Bogdanovic free throws wrapped up a huge win for the Pacers.
Oladipo finished with a solid stat line of 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists. All five starters scored in double figures for Indy, as well as getting 16 points off of the bench from Lance Stephenson.
Indiana closes out their road trip on Sunday with another game that will factor in playoff positioning. The Pacers will face off with the Washington Wizards, who sit just a half game ahead of the Blue and Gold for the four seed. Tipoff from the nation’s capital is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.