Two teams going in opposite directions reversed course on Wednesday as the Indiana Pacers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 118-111 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Pacers forward T.J. Warren scored a game-high 35 points on 16-of-19 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and four steals. His performance helped the Pacers shoot 52.3 percent from the field.
All five Pacers starters scored in double digits. Malcolm Brogdon (17 points, 13 assists) and Myles Turner (14 points, 10 rebounds) each had double-doubles.
Donte DiVincenzo led the Bucks with 19 points off the bench, and Khris Middleton added 17.
Indiana led 68-45 at halftime, but Milwaukee fought back and cut the deficit to 90-86 with 8:19 remaining in the game after an Eric Bledsoe layup.
But the Pacers responded with a 10-0 run capped by four Brogdon points. Milwaukee never came closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The 32-23 Pacers broke a six-game losing skid. The 46-8 Bucks' five-game winning streak came to an end. Milwaukee had also won 14 of its last 15 heading into Wednesday.
The Bucks played without MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is out after he and girlfriend Mariah Danae Riddlesprigger welcomed a son, Liam Charles, on Monday.
Pacers F T.J. Warren: 35 PTS, 7 REB, 4 STL
Pacers PG Malcolm Brogdon: 17 PTS, 13 AST, 5 REB
Pacers C Myles Turner: 14 PTS, 10 REB, 2 BLK
Bucks F Khris Middleton: 17 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST
Bucks G Eric Bledsoe: 15 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST
Bucks G Donte DiVincenzo: 19 PTS, 8 REB, 1 STL
T.J. Warren Stars, But Rest of Pacers Excel in Much-Needed Win
February has been a month to forget for the Indiana Pacers, who entered Wednesday winless.
Losses included defeats to three teams with sub-.500 records in the New Orleans Pelicans, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks. Somehow, the Pacers couldn't find a win despite each game being competitive (their average margin of defeat was just 5.7 points per game).
On paper, the Pacers looked like they'd be in trouble against the league's best team, which was without Antetokounmpo but sporting a 5-0 record without its leader. Milwaukee's average margin of victory during those games was 16.8 points.
The Pacers needed some excellent performances to topple the Bucks, and they got them from numerous players during a night on which Indiana finally resembled the team from the season's first three months.
The team's leading scorer, T.J. Warren, only missed three of his 19 shots. He excelled from two-point range again, as he has all season, per Tyler Smith of IndySportsLegends.com:
John Hollinger of The Athletic gave credit where it was due:
Warren was tough on the defensive end, which sometimes led to points:
Warren also came through in the clutch as the Bucks chipped away at the lead with some huge buckets in the fourth, including these two:
Indiana got some much-needed contributions elsewhere, however, perhaps none more encouraging than the ones from Victor Oladipo.
The two-time All-Star is finding his form after missing a year with a quad injury, and he shot just 20.5 percent in his first three games back.
However, the shots are falling more since, capped by a 5-of-7 performance Wednesday for 13 points.
Oladipo's aggressiveness was on display against the Bucks as he drove through the lane for a few buckets:
The 8 Points, 9 Seconds FanSided Pacers blog noted that Oladipo was starting to look like his old self:
The rest of the Pacers starters impressed, as well.
Malcolm Brogdon had zero issues finding his teammates all night against the league's best defense en route to his 13 assists, and Myles Turner was tough on the boards with 10. All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis had an off night from the field at 4-of-15 but helped the Pacers dominate the paint on both ends for a 54-42 advantage.
The Pacers aren't in danger of missing the playoffs. Based on the latest top-heavy Eastern Conference standings, they may find themselves with enough wins to realistically secure a top-eight seed before March.
But it's important to roll into the postseason with some momentum, and they got off to the right foot in that regard by heading into the All-Star break with a big win.
The Pacers and Bucks will both be represented in the NBA All-Star Game in Chicago on Sunday.
Antetokounmpo is the captain for Team Giannis, which also features Bucks teammate Khris Middleton.
Domantas Sabonis will play for Team LeBron, captained by Los Angeles Lakers guard/forward LeBron James.