Just when it looked like the Indiana Pacers might run away with a signature victory, the Milwaukee Bucks showed why they have the best record in the NBA.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and a tough-as-nails defense took over down the stretch, and the Bucks imposed their will in a 106-97 victory Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Antetokounmpo finished with a triple-double of 33 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Bucks outscored the Pacers, 30-11, over the final 9:17 to silence what was a raucous crowd.
Tyreke Evans’ 3-pointer gave the Pacers an 86-76 lead with 9:37 left — an 18-point swing in the first 14:23 of the second half.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer called a timeout and made two big — figuratively and literally — substitutions. He inserted 7-1 center Brook Lopez for 6-3 guard Eric Bledsoe and 6-8 Khris Middleton for 6-7 Tony Snell.
Those two combined with the 6-11 Antetokounmpo, 6-10 Ersan Ilyasova and 6-5 Malcolm Brogdon to challenge every Indiana shot.
The Pacers were 3 for 5 in the fourth quarter at that point, and had scored the period’s first seven points.
From there, the Pacers went 5 for 17 with three turnovers.
Brogdon’s running jumper capped a 6-0 run and made it a 15-4 run overall, giving the Bucks a 91-90 lead with 5:56 left.
Thaddeus Young’s 3-pointer gave Indiana its last lead of the game at 95-93 with 4:42 left,
Antetokounmpo tied it on a short half-hook from the bottom of the circle, then took a brief rest — 13 seconds to be exact — before reentering after a timeout. He quickly fed Ilyasova with a bullet pass for a go-ahead layup, then drove the lane and fed Middleton for an open 3-pointer in the right corner.
As the defense kept the Pacers wrapped up, Antetokounmpo made two pairs of free throws for a 104-95 lead, and the Pacers were done.
Brogdon added 17 points to the Milwaukee attack, Middleton chipped in 15 and George Hill (12) and Ilyasova (11) made double-figure contributions off the bench.
The Bucks improved to 43-14 entering the all-star break. They also improved to 9-0 in “revenge” games against teams that had beaten them in the previous matchup.
Bojan Bogdanovic led Indiana (38-20) with 20 points, and Darren Collison and Domantas Sabonis each had 14.
The Pacers had a six-game winning streak snapped, while the Bucks won their seventh straight road game.