Pacers gain momentum with Oladipo, face Bucks

INDIANAPOLIS — After losing five consecutive games, the INDIANA
Pacers got a boost from the return of leading scorer Victor Oladipo.

It started with two strong days of practice.

“It was high intensity, nothing crazy,” Oladipo said. “We could
tell guys were really locked in and getting after it.”

Oladipo, who returned after missing four games with a sore right
knee, scored 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting and delivered nine
assists and five steals in a 125-86 rout of Chicago on Saturday.
The Pacers (20-19) hope that provides momentum heading into Monday
night’s game against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks (21-17).

“It was great win, but we got to build on it, it’s just one win,”
Oladipo said. “It was a good win for us and we have to keep getting
better.”

Pacers center Myles Turner agreed the tougher practices made a
difference.

“We competed harder, we made it more like a training camp
practice,” he said. “This was a confidence game and we need to
build on it.”

Pacers coach Nate McMillan said Oladipo played relaxed and didn’t
pressure himself to do too much.

“He opened up the offense as well as the defense with a couple of
steals in the first quarter,” McMillan said. “We were able to
establish a tempo. When you have a guy like that capable of
creating opportunities for himself as well as his teammates. It
just frees you up. A lot of what our guys have to do is catch and
shoot because the defense is focused on him.”

With Oladipo out, the Bucks dominated the Pacers in a 122-101 rout
on Wednesday night.

“We’re looking forward to it, definitely,” Oladipo said. “It’s
going to be tough opponent, great team. We’re looking forward to
the opportunity to go out and compete.”

The Bucks rallied in the fourth quarter to beat host Washington
110-103 on Saturday. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 34 and Eric
Bledsoe scored 15 of 21 points in the fourth quarter.

Bucks coach Jason Kidd said Antetokounmpo did a good job letting
Bledsoe take over.

“Both of those guys have a great relationship as far as
communication and talking to each other as they game is going on,”
Kidd said. “They trust each other that they are going to make the
right play,” Kidd said. ‘Those two down the stretch with the
pick-and-roll is tough.”

Despite struggles, Kidd said the Bucks were only down three points
after three quarters.

“We didn’t play our best basketball, but we didn’t break,” Kidd
said. “We might have bent, but we stayed together. That’s what a
good team does, they stay together and learn from their mistakes.”

Antetokounmpo, who averages team-highs of 29.1 points and 10.2
rebounds, said the Bucks didn’t perform well defensively in Friday
night’s 129-110 loss to Toronto.

“We did a good job coming out (Saturday night) and just playing
harder as a team,” he said.

The Bucks held the Wizards to 5-of-19 shooting in the final quarter.

Pacers forward Damien Wilkins, 37, made his first start of the
season Saturday night, starting in place of injured Bojan
Bogdanovic (Achilles heel). However, the Pacers waived Wilkins
Sunday because if they hadn’t, his contract would have been
guaranteed for the rest of the season. Wilkins, who scored 11
points Saturday, averaged 1.7 points in 19 games.

The Bucks waived DeAndre Liggins Sunday for the same reason.
Milwaukee moved Joel Bolomboy from a two-way contract to an NBA
contract and moved Xavier Munford, from Wisconsin Herd of G League,
to a two-way contract.

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