Bucks win over Pacers was solid, but not without blemishes

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks used turnovers to keep the game close early, before taking full control in the second half and beating the Indiana Pacers for the second time in 2012-13.

How the Milwaukee Bucks managed to eek out a 98-93 win against the Indiana Pacers without the services of the notorious B.A.D., Joel Przybilla, I have no idea.

What I do know is that, within those 48 minutes, the Bucks played better than they had in any game over the past month. That doesn't mean it was a clean, dominant effort, but it was a step in the right direction against a getting better team within the Central Division.

The Bucks have slayed their fair share of bums this season, and even victories against quality opponents have come when those teams were missing All-Star-caliber talent. Sure, the Pacers are missing Danny Granger, but there's still something to be said for a team hanging 98 points on the NBA'S stingiest scoring defense.

"We did a lot of things well tonight, that's a team that is number one int he league in defensive field goal percentage, and we got a lot of good shots out there tonight," Scott Skiles said. "Our ball movement was good, guys were in the right spots, we set pretty good screens, we did a lot of things positive to get good looks. Against a team like that, that's what you're trying to get."

The Bucks best wins from last season's second half came when the team exploited defenses in transition, hit spot up threes off kicks or picks in the half-court, and made the "extra pass" to an open/cutting man you didn't even know was there. Think Alan Grant's description of velociraptor attacks in Jurassic Park, except with a basketball.

Like I said, it was far from perfect, but the Bucks took care of business in a way that didn't make you feel like taking a shower 10 minutes after it was over.

Three Bucks

Brandon Jennings. Jennings set a new season high for points (34, 13-22 fg, 2-5 3fg), and did so in a way that makes me wish I had set my DVR. He drew fouls (6-9 ft, 5-7 in second half), finished at the rim (5-8 fg), and closed the game with 12 of the Bucks' final 14 points. Jennings had his "jumper with 23 seconds on the shot clock" moments, but things were mostly coming up Brandon Tuesday night.

Monta Ellis. Ellis scored 4 points on 2-7 shots in the first quarter, but rebounded with a solid showing throughout the final 36 minutes (15 pts, 6-15 fg). He added 6 assists, 3 steals, and a few highlight moves by game's end, including a really slick reverse spin move for an easy front-end lay-in. Not a great night, but Ellis was a crucial part of Milwaukee's lead-building 27-18 third quarter.

Mike Dunleavy. Watching Dunleavy (17 pts, 6-14 fg, 6 rbs, 2 blks) maneuver around screens, catch-and-shoot threes, and make timely plays made me feel like Kevin McAlister seeing his family again at the end of Home Alone. He was responsible for half of the Bucks' threes (3-5 3fg), and had a key tip-in off his own miss that put Milwaukee up six with 1:35 to play. Welcome back, Mike.

Three Numbers

29.5%. This was the Pacers' second half shooting percentage (the Bucks shot 43.2%). Indiana (and Roy Hibbert, in particular) is not adept at scoring up close (55.6% from less than 5 feet), and the Bucks were physical enough under the basket to force the Pacers to score on just 36% of their shots (9-25 fg) around the rim in the second half.

20. Milwaukee scored 15 of their 20 points off turnovers in the first half, which went a very long way towards keeping the game within reach. Overall, the Bucks won the turnover (20-15) and turnover scoring battles, enough so to offset the team's deficiencies in the paint (46-38 Pacers advantage) and at the line (-9 free throw deficit).

12. Thanks to their Go-Go Gadget length inside and along the perimeter, the Pacers are the best team in the NBA at preventing transition opportunities (10 transition ppg), and subsequently, points. They did so respectably in the first half, but the Bucks tallied 12 of their 13 fastbreak points in the final 24 minutes.

Three Good

Finish him! Jennings and Ellis combined for 11-21 at the rim, which in itself is not entirely impressive for two players reliant on speed and body control. But their aggressiveness forced Indiana's defense to collapse, opening passing lanes and good looks for Dunleavy and Co. Both players are also a big reason why the Bucks' free throw totals have gone up by six over the past five games (from 21 to 26).

Hansbrough jokes. To watch Ben and Tyler Hansbrough play together is like watching the McPoyles exchange bathrobes and milk for jerseys and Gatorade. They're really grindy, and Tyler is definitely a useful piece, but they're really kind of weird.

"West'rating performance. David West (12 pts, 5-14 fg, 6 rbs) has a long, storied history of killing the Bucks and putting Larry Sanders (9 pts, 2-4 fg, 9 rbs, 5 blks, 5 pf) in his place. Neither bore fruit, as Luc Mbah a Moute and the rest of Milwaukee's Tube Men frustrated West to the point of a technical foul in the third quarter.

Three Bad

Free throws. The Bucks may be taking more free throws lately, but they're also missing more of them (from 74.3% ft to 70.5% ft). Milwaukee sent Indiana to the line 34 times to their 26, and missed out on 8 much-needed freebie points that would've made the late-game lead much more comfortable.

Rebounding. The Pacers demolished the Bucks on the glass, turning nearly 40% of their misses into 23 second chance points (18 offensive boards on 48 misses), and racking up 51 total boards to Milwaukee's 37. Granted, Indiana entered, and left, the game with the league's second highest defensive rebounding rate (75.23), but a better offensive team would've made the Bucks pay even worse.

Santa Grizz is coming to town. This was a good win. Now onto an ESPN-televised Wednesday night Memphis showdown against the Western Conference's third best team that already pummeled the Bucks into submission on their home court. Welcome to Thunderdome.

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