On Friday, the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks engaged in a hotly contested affair at the Bradley Center. The teams followed it up by getting wins in differing ways Sunday.
On Monday, the Bucks and Pacers get together for the second time in less than a week when the Central Division foes meet in Indianapolis.
Indiana (36-27) enters the game in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of Washington, while Milwaukee (34-29) sits in seventh but only two games behind the Pacers.
On Friday, the Pacers pulled out a 103-96 win at Milwaukee despite almost blowing a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. The win in Milwaukee occurred after consecutive defeats at Atlanta and Dallas.
It also occurred after a feisty first half when the teams combined for five technical fouls in the last six-plus minutes of the opening quarter.
“From the arena to the players to the (officials), it definitely felt like a playoff atmosphere,” Indiana guard Victor Oladipo told reporters after the Pacers committed four turnovers in a 12-0 run for Milwaukee midway through the fourth. “It was a great win for us.”
Indiana followed up its escape from Milwaukee by getting a 98-95 win at Washington on Sunday. The Pacers are 17-8 in their last 25 games.
“We’re going to have to grind it out the rest of the year,” Oladipo told reporters. “It’s playoff basketball the rest of the year.”
Oladipo scored 21 points Friday and followed it up by scoring 10 of his 33 against the Wizards in the fourth quarter. Like the visit to Milwaukee, the Pacers put on a shaky display in the fourth, getting outscored 30-18 and missing 12 of 17 shots.
Friday’s loss was Milwaukee’s fourth straight after it won nine of its first 12 games under interim coach Joe Prunty.
The Bucks seemed headed for another loss Sunday but overcame a 20-point deficit in a 118-110 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Milwaukee faced its 20-point deficit in the first quarter and was down 19 in the third. The Bucks trailed 81-62 in the opening minutes of the second half but finished the game with a 56-31 run.
Giannis Antetokounmpo did the heavy lifting with 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He scored 17 of those points during the comeback.
“We came into this game with the mentality that we have to win no matter what,” said Antetokounmpo, who averaged 19.5 points during the losing streak. “They were up 19. They were up 20. We kept chasing.”
Antetokounmpo shot 6 of 18 against the Pacers but rebounded nicely with a 14-of-23 showing. It was his eighth game with at least 35 points.
Eric Bledsoe added 22 points while Jabari Parker finished with 13. Tyler Zeller added 11 while playing effective defense at times but also injured his back and may not play Monday.
Milwaukee scored 36 points off 26 turnovers.
Both teams added new players over the weekend, though neither played. The Pacers signed Trevor Booker and the Bucks added Shabazz Muhammad.
Booker began the season with the Brooklyn Nets and was traded to Philadelphia, which released him after signing Ersan Ilyasova. Muhammad averaged nine points in 17.4 minutes in five seasons for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who limited his playing time as the season went on.
Indiana has won two of the first three meetings of the teams this season. Antetokounmpo scored 31 points in Milwaukee’s 122-101 home win Jan. 3, when Oladipo sat out with a knee injury, but Indiana shot 55.7 percent in its 109-96 home win five days later.