INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers may not yet have an answer for the zone defense. They certainly have mastered the art of comebacks.
The Pacers scored the final 14 points Tuesday night, and used a strong offensive performance from Jermaine O'Neal and an even better defensive effort from Jamaal Tinsley to get past Milwaukee 93-88. It was the second time in four days Indiana rallied to defeat the Bucks.
"Jamaal willed us to win," coach Rick Carlisle said. "When his energy is up defensively, the whole group behind him is ready to go. Without him, we could not have won this game."
The Pacers expected this one to come down to offense, though.
Since they last played, at Milwaukee, the Pacers spent three days working on how to beat the Bucks' zone that caused so many problems Saturday.
For a while, it appeared they had a solution -- beating the Bucks to the soft spots, driving to the middle and finding O'Neal open for shots. But until the decisive run, the Pacers struggled to make it work in the second half.
The trio of O'Neal, Tinsley and Stephen Jackson finally bailed them out.
O'Neal finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, including the final two free throws to seal the win. Tinsley added 17 points and created havoc on defense. Jackson scored five key points in the Pacers' final charge, and Al Harrington, who missed Saturday's game, returned to the lineup with seven points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
Maurice Williams finished with 22 points to lead the Bucks, while the NBA's second-leading scorer, Michael Redd, had 21 - well below his season average of 30.3
But it was a late scoring drought that sent Milwaukee to its seventh loss in eight games.
"We were not able to score and weren't getting some close calls," Bucks coach Terry Stotts said. "We played well in the first 40 minutes, but we weren't able to close them out."
It was Indiana's second win in five games.
From the early moments, the Pacers hardly resembled the team that struggled so badly Saturday.
With a better inside-outside combination that included five 3-pointers in the first half, and a stronger inside presence from O'Neal and Harrington, the Pacers would not let the Bucks pull away as they did Saturday in building a 17-point first-half lead.
Instead, they stayed close throughout the half and then appeared to take control by opening the second half on a 14-2 run that gave Indiana a 62-51 lead.
The momentum didn't last long.
"It was one of the more bizarre games I've been involved with, regular season or playoffs," Carlisle said. "It's a game where you have to find a way to win."
Both teams thought they had done enough.
Milwaukee closed the third quarter on a 10-0 run and scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to rebuild a 75-68 advantage, and it still led 88-79 with 3:06 left.
Suddenly, everything changed.
The Bucks shooters went cold, they mishandled the ball and the Pacers took advantage.
Tinsley started the comeback by making 1-of-2 free throws, and Marquis Daniels followed that with a layup to make it 88-82. Jackson scored the next five points to get the Pacers within one, and when Tinsley banked in a 10-footer with 31.5 seconds to go, the Pacers finally had the lead.
Darrell Armstrong and O'Neal closed out the victory by making four straight free throws, and for the second time in four days, the Bucks lamented what went wrong.
"They were aggressive getting to the free throw line at the end of the game, made some key 3s and I think Tinsley was aggressive," Redd said. "And we went into a funk. We couldn't score, couldn't get any calls going our way. It was just a bad last two or three minutes for us."
|Jermaine O'Neal (26, 13) powers the Pacers' late rally over the Bucks by scoring eight points in the third. (AP)|
|Indiana (6-5) «||23||25||20||25||93|
|MIL:M. Williams 22 Pts
MIL:D. Gadzuric 11 Reb
MIL:M. Williams 9 Ast
|IND:J. O'Neal 26 Pts
IND:A. Harrington 18 Reb
IND:J. Tinsley 9 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|M. Redd, SG||45||9-24||2-2||0||6||2||21|
|M. Williams, PG||37||7-12||6-6||5||9||2||22|
|A. Bogut, C||33||7-14||0-0||8||1||2||14|
|R. Patterson, SF||21||3-5||0-0||1||0||1||6|
|E. Ilyasova, SF||21||1-8||0-0||7||0||4||3|
|C. Bell, SG||31||3-5||3-3||3||1||2||9|
|D. Gadzuric, C||28||5-13||3-3||11||0||4||13|
|B. Skinner, PF||12||0-3||0-0||4||1||1||0|
|S. Blake, PG||12||0-1||0-0||1||1||1||0|
|B. Simmons, SF||Did Not Play|
|L. Greer, PG||Did Not Play|
|C. Villanueva, PF||Did Not Play|
|D. Markota, PF||Did Not Play|
|D. Noel, SF||Did Not Play|
|C. McCray, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|J. O'Neal, PF||39||10-14||6-7||13||1||0||26|
|D. Granger, SF||38||4-14||0-0||4||0||4||10|
|A. Harrington, C||33||3-11||1-2||18||2||3||7|
|J. Tinsley, PG||33||6-12||3-4||6||9||3||17|
|M. Daniels, SG||22||1-3||2-3||1||4||1||4|
|S. Jackson, SG||33||4-11||2-3||1||2||3||10|
|J. Foster, C||20||2-2||0-0||2||3||2||4|
|S. Jasikevicius, PG||14||4-9||0-1||1||2||1||10|
|D. Armstrong, PG||9||1-3||2-2||1||2||2||5|
|M. Baston, PF||Did Not Play|
|D. Harrison, C||Did Not Play|
|J. Powell, PF||Did Not Play|
|O. Greene, PG||Did Not Play|
|R. Marshall, SF||Did Not Play|
|S. Williams, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|