Pacers look for seventh straight as Bucks visit
The Indiana Pacers appeared ready to wallow in a long, painful derailment after Victor Oladipo's season-ending knee injury.
But they are certainly back on track and chugging along just fine.
The Pacers (38-19) will try to match their season best winning streak of seven games when they host the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.
Indiana dropped its first four games after Oladipo tore a quad tendon just above his right knee on Jan. 23, but has rebounded in impressive fashion.
The Pacers recorded back-to-back road wins in Miami and New Orleans and have added four wins to start a six-game homestand. Among the victories were blowouts of the Los Angeles Lakers (136-94) and Los Angeles Clippers (116-92) as well as a 105-90 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The good times continued with Monday's 99-90 triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.
Veteran guard Wesley Matthews made his team debut -- having arrived as a free agent after being bought out by the New York Knicks -- with eight points and five rebounds in 30 minutes. He will be counted on to make up some of the lost productivity of Oladipo (18.8 scoring average).
"We obviously miss Vic, but Wes is able to step in right away and have an impact because of the things he does," center Myles Turner told reporters after Monday's victory. "He's not a guy who has to shoot the ball 20 or 30 times a game. He's not a guy who demands shots, a guy who's going to complain.
"He comes in with a businesslike mentality, he takes care of things on the defensive end of the floor and he hits shots. So he fits in right away."
Tyreke Evans was moved to a reserve role to open a starting spot for Matthews, who was just 2 of 10 from the field.
"Part of the agreement was that he would start when he came, and we were OK with that because we thought bringing that type of talent to this roster and having a guy like that going down the stretch and in the playoffs with that type of experience, we were going to need it," Indiana coach Nate McMillan told reporters.
The Pacers have won their last four home meetings against the Bucks, who are sizzling with 13 wins in their past 15 games.
All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from a one-game absence due to knee soreness to contribute 29 points -- on just 13 field-goal attempts -- 17 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks in Monday's 112-99 road win over the Chicago Bulls.
Milwaukee (42-14) finished the game with a 12-2 run to seal a victory, which kept it one game ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the East.
"I think we just trust one another and were playing with a lot of effort," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "Especially defensively, we tried to pick it up in the second half. We were just finding the open man offensively, and we were able to knock down some shots."
The margin prior to the decisive surge was a bit too close for comfort for Eric Bledsoe. But the veteran guard scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to help put away the Bulls.
"They tried to get us with a spoiler alert," Bledsoe told reporters. "We couldn't let it happen, especially going into the (All-Star) break. You know, these games are crucial games even though our record is what it is. These are crucial games we should win."
Forward Nikola Mirotic (calf) has yet to make his team debut since being acquired from the Pelicans before the trade deadline. Coach Mike Budenholzer said a decision on Mirotic's availability will be made Wednesday.
The clubs split two meetings earlier this season, with the home team winning on each occasion.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 13, 2019