INDIANAPOLIS – On Monday night, the Indiana Pacers (37-27) capped a big stretch with a third straight win.
Following consecutive rough road losses, Indy faced a stretch of three straight games versus important Eastern Conference foes. After a 92-89 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks (34-30) on Monday, the Blue and Gold emerged from that stretch with a 3-0 record.
The aftermath of two wins over Milwaukee and a Sunday win over the Washington Wizards leaves Indiana in the four spot in the playoff standings. The Pacers are now a game ahead of Washington and three games clear of the Bucks. In the race for the three seed, Indy is just a half game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Each side struggled early in Monday’s contest. The Pacers scored just eight points in the first half of the first quarter, while the Bucks shot just 6-of-20 from the field in the entire frame. Indiana led after one, 20-17.
Milwaukee took the lead midway through the second quarter and held on to it for most of the rest of the period. Tony Snell‘s triple with 30 seconds left in the half gave the Bucks the edge going into the break, 46-44.
To start the third quarter, the Pacers stormed out of the locker room. Led by Bojan Bogdanovic, who finished by tying his season high with 29 points, Indiana went off on a 21-4 run. That offensive explosion gave the home team a 65-50 advantage.
Milwaukee quickly countered, however. The Bucks answered with a 17-3 run, trimming Indy’s third quarter lead all the way down to a single point. Lance Stephenson canned a three-pointer and blocked a shot at the buzzer to help save some face, as the Blue and Gold led 73-69 after three.
The Pacers were able to build their lead up to eight points early in the fourth quarter, and led by that same mark with 6:17 to go, but the Bucks hung in there. They chipped away at their deficit, pulling within two with just 1:36 remaining.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a chance to even the score at 90 with two free throws with 1:05 on the clock, but could only convert on one of the attempts. Milwaukee never scored again.
Victor Oladipo was called for a double dribble with 52 seconds left. Antetokounmpo missed on the other end. Another Oladipo turnover with 8.7 ticks to go led to a Bucks fast break, but Khris Middleton had the ball knocked out of bounds. Officials determined the play was too difficult to call, resulting in a jump ball. Middleton won the tip against Cory Joseph, but the ball landed in Bogdanovic’s hands. He was fouled by Eric Bledsoe.
Bogdanovic calmly nailed both free throws, putting the Bucks behind by three with 5.1 seconds. Antetokounmpo was able to shake off Thaddeus Young for a good look at the buzzer, but his game-tying triple was short.
The usually sure-handed Oladipo was not at his best in this ballgame. Oladipo was just 5-of-19 from the field, finishing with 14 points. He also turned the ball over an alarming ten times, with the rest of the team combining for four.
Bogdanovic, on the other hand, was fantastic. He knocked down nine of 13 shot attempts, including five made three-pointers. His 29 points were a game-high.
Next up for Indy is a matchup with the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. The middle game of a three-game homestand is slated to get underway from the Circle City at 7:00 p.m.