It might be the better conditioned team, and not necessarily the most talented one, that prevails when the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks meet for the first time this season.
With each club concluding a stretch of three games in three nights, the surging Bucks look to avoid a third consecutive loss to the Pacers on Saturday night at the Bradley Center.
One night after its season-high six-game winning streak was snapped with a 100-91 home loss to Boston, Milwaukee (22-25) bounced back with a 112-92 victory at Charlotte on Friday.
Defensive-minded forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored 13 of his team-high 20 points in the second half to help the Bucks move within one-half game of New York for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We wanted to come out with a lot of energy," said Mbah a Moute, averaging 7.5 points this season. "When we move and share the ball we're a good team. We imparted our will out there and were able to get an easy win."
Six players scored in double figures as the Bucks shot 53.3 percent and recorded 31 assists Friday - the fifth time in six games they've had more than 30 assists. Milwaukee, which also had a season-high 72 points in the paint, has averaged 110.4 points on 49.4 percent shooting while winning seven of eight.
"We've got a comfortable group out there and (want) to use our depth to our advantage," said veteran swingman Mike Dunleavy, who scored 15 off the bench at Charlotte. "It's a fun way to play. When the ball is moving and guys are knocking down shots, it's fun and it's easy. Hopefully we can keep it up."
The energy the Bucks were able to save by utilizing their depth against the Bobcats could come in handy Saturday. Milwaukee has dropped the last two versus Indiana following a six-game winning streak in the series.
Indiana snapped a five-game skid at Milwaukee with a 103-97 win in its last trip to the Bradley Center on Feb. 12, 2011.
"We're hungry to play, we're ready to play Milwaukee," All-Star center Roy Hibbert told the Pacers' official website.
Indiana (27-19) is just percentage points ahead of Atlanta for fifth place in the East after falling 113-111 at home to Phoenix on Friday, one night after it rallied from 22 points down to win 85-83 at Washington. Danny Granger had 28 points on 9-of-13 shooting Friday and Hibbert added 19, but the Pacers lost for the seventh time in 11 contests following a season-high six-game winning streak.
"A tough loss, but I'm proud of the way we competed," coach Frank Vogel said.
Granger has averaged 23.0 points in the last three games, and 22.6 in his last 16 versus the Bucks. He scored 30 in the Pacers' last visit to Milwaukee.
Monta Ellis is averaging 26.6 points on 49.1 percent shooting in his last five games versus Indiana, but just 14.5 while making 37.7 percent of his shots in four contests since the Bucks acquired him from Golden State in a five-player deal last week.