INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan challenged his team to play more aggressive defense.
On Monday night, the Pacers showed just how good they could be.
Indiana seized control early by forcing 13 turnovers in the first 17 minutes, built a 29-point lead and never allowed the Milwaukee Bucks to make a serious run over the final 42 minutes of a 109-96 victory.
“I thought we came out defensively and challenged every catch,” McMillan said. “We had better pressure defensively.”
Last week, the Pacers couldn't do much right in a 21-point loss at Milwaukee.
This time, they played with passion and intensity and it changed everything.
Indiana dominated most of the game, forcing continual miscues and bad shots while the offense took advantage by making 18 of its first 25 attempts.
Milwaukee never recovered from the early flurry.
Domantas Sabonis finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Pacers. Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young each had 15 points on a night when seven Pacers players scored at least 10.
Indiana has won two straight since a five-game losing streak.
Khris Middleton led Milwaukee with 19 points and Giannis Anetetokoumpo had 17 – not nearly enough against an intense defense on a mission.
“Indiana is a team that pressures and tries to make us uncomfortable, force us into bad decisions and they did,” Malcolm Brogdon said after scoring 12 points for the Bucks. “We let it affect us with turnovers.”
Indiana broke it open by scoring 20 straight points in the first quarter to turn a 15-14 game into a blowout. The Pacers finished the period on a 22-2 spurt to make it 37-16.
The Pacers extended the lead to 48-21 midway through the second quarter before the Bucks finally fought back with a 9-1 run to cut the deficit to 19. Indiana immediately answered with seven straight points and led 64-38 at halftime.
Milwaukee couldn't get any closer than 16 until the final two minutes.
“We just turned it up, helping the helper, going out there and have each other's back,” Oladipo said. “We definitely looked united and that was huge for us.”
TIMBERWOLVES 127, CAVALIERS 99: In Minneapolis, Andrew Wiggins had 25 points in three quarters, Jimmy Butler pitched in 21 points and tight defense on LeBron James, and the Minnesota Timberwolves cruised.
James had just 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting. Cleveland fell behind by as much as 41 points in the third quarter.
ROCKETS 116, BULLS 107: In Chicago, With NBA scoring leader James Harden missing his fourth consecutive game because of a strained hamstring, Eric Gordon and Chris Paul each had 24 points and nine assists and Gerald Green scored 22 for Houston.
Bobby Portis led the Bulls with 22 points. Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn each scored 19.
PELICANS 112, PISTONS 109: In New Orleans, DeMarcus Cousins scored 16 of his 20 points after Anthony Davis left with an ankle injury in the third quarter, and New Orleans held off Detroit.
Tobias Harris scored 25 points and Avery Bradley had 24 for the Pistons, who've lost three of four. Andre Drummond, who missed two of Detroit's previous three games, had 16 points and 14 rebounds.