Bucks down to final playoff spot after tough loss to Pacers

March 6, 2018 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS — Despite a late-game rally, the Milwaukee Bucks came out on the short end Monday night.

Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton stole Victor Oladipo’s pass with 10 seconds left and Indiana leading 90-89.

He rushed to the basket, but Cory Joseph chased him down and got a hand on the basketball before Middleton could attempt a shot. The ball rolled out of bounds, and referees called a jump ball after video replay.

Moments later, Indiana’s Brian Bogdanovic came down with the tip off the jump ball and added a pair of free throws with 6 seconds left as the Pacers held off the Bucks 92-89.

Milwaukee had a chance to tie it, but Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 3-pointer from the wing hit the front of the rim as time expired.

“Great effort. We played hard for 48 minutes and it’s a 48-minute game,” Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty said. “We (ended) up with a pretty good look (to tie the game), just didn’t knock it down.”

That the Bucks nearly came out with a victory at Indiana is a testament to their hard-working nature under Prunty. Jabari Parker said the Pacers’ fortune in securing the jump ball doesn’t take away from the Bucks’ effort — they still manufactured a shot at the end.

“We got an open shot, that’s all I care about. That was a good shot,” said Parker, who scored 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

Indiana has won 11 of its 13 home games since the beginning of January.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan said the victory was important to the team.

“I’m really happy with this win in the sense that it’s a back-to-back, a tiebreaker, we wanted to win that. We knew it was going to be a tough game,” McMillan said. “Protecting home court going down the stretch is going to be very important with all the road games that we have.”

The Bucks (34-30) are in eighth place for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee, which is in third place in the Midwest Division behind the Cleveland Cavaliers (37-26) and Pacers (37-27), is five games clear of the Detroit Pistons (29-35).

Thaddeus Young had 10 points and seven rebounds, and Oladipo finished with 14 points, five assists and five rebounds along with 10 turnovers.

Bogdanovic has been on a roll since Jan. 29, when he went scoreless in a win over Charlotte. Since then, he’s scored in double figures in 13 straight games, and in six of those 13 contests, he’s scored 20 or more points.

“After that game I was scoreless here against Charlotte, I was really mad, and I just tried to tell myself that I have to be aggressive,” Bogdanovic said.

When the basketball was tipped, Bogdanovic aggressively boxed out a Milwaukee defender, wrestled the loose ball away from his opponent’s hands and held onto it tightly as he was dragged to the ground before a foul was called.

“I just tried to box out (Eric) Bledsoe like on a free throw,” Bogdanovic said. “I was really, really locked in (at the foul line) and I knew that I was going to hit both of them.”

Despite Bogdanovic’s hot hand, the Pacers and Bucks got off to a slow, sloppy start.

Indiana led 20-17 at the end of the first quarter. Both teams were playing on the second night of a back-to-back.

Milwaukee took a 46-44 lead into halftime, and then both teams came alive in the second half. The Pacers opened up the third with a 19-5 run that gave them a 65-50 lead. The 15-point edge was Indiana’s largest of the game.

The Bucks put together a 19-5 run to pull within four points at the end of the third quarter, setting up a back-and-forth ending.

Antetokounmpo finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Bledsoe led the Bucks with 26 points.

Middleton, who managed just six points, and Antetokounmpo have combined to score at least 20 points each on 26 occasions this season.

“We played the whole game, kept playing, didn’t worry about the score,” Middleton said. “Just kept trying to play hard.”

In the paint

Shabazz Muhammad, who signed with Milwaukee on Sunday, made his first appearance in the second quarter. He played nearly seven minutes, missing his only shot and grabbing a rebound. ... Bucks center Tyler Zeller missed the game due to right hip and back soreness stemming from his fall on Sunday. ... Milwaukee next hosts the Rockets on Wednesday night.

Milwaukee 17 29 23 20 — 89

Indiana 20 24 29 19 — 92

MILWAUKEE — Middleton 1-7 4-5 6, Antetokounmpo 7-16 4-5 18, Henson 1-4 0-0 2, Bledsoe 10-22 4-4 26, Snell 3-5 0-0 9, Parker 7-10 0-0 15, Maker 0-4 0-0 0, Terry 4-5 0-0 9, Brown 1-2 2-2 4, Muhammad 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 34-76 14-16 89.

INDIANA — Bogdanovic 9-13 6-8 29, T.Young 4-8 0-0 10, Turner 1-3 3-4 5, Joseph 3-9 0-0 6, Oladipo 5-19 3-4 14, Robinson III 1-2 0-0 2, Leaf 0-0 0-0 0, Sabonis 5-9 1-1 11, J.Young 2-6 0-0 4, Stephenson 3-8 3-4 11. Totals 33-77 16-21 92.

3-point goals — M 7-23 (Snell 3-4, Bledsoe 2-10, Parker 1-2, Terry 1-2, Middleton 0-1, Maker 0-2, Antetokounmpo 0-2), I 10-17 (Bogdanovic 5-7, T.Young 2-3, Stephenson 2-3, Oladipo 1-2, J.Young 0-1, Joseph 0-1). Rebounds — M 39 (Antetokounmpo 12), I 37 (T.Young 7). Assists — M 15 (Bledsoe 4), I 18 (Oladipo 5). Total fouls — M 16, I 15. Technicals — M coach Prunty (defensive 3 second). Att. — 15,874.