Although they looked inept at times and invincible in other stretches, the inconsistent Indiana Pacers reached a turning point Sunday night.
Chuck Person scored 20 points, Reggie Miller added 19 and the Pacers held off Milwaukee for a 107-103 victory. Indiana fell behind by 14 points in the first 8:08, rallied to take a 15-point lead halfway through the third quarter, then clung to a 1-point lead through the final minutes to snap a four-game losing streak."We have to go out and make war every night," Person said. "Our guys are ready to do that. We played hard-nosed and aggressively and stayed after people. We converted plays late, something we hadn't been doing."
The resurgence came after a second meeting of the season among players, a talk Person said helped bring the group together.
"We have to forget about what each individual needs and worry about what the team needs," Person said. That way, we can all get what we want."
Person and Miller each sank two free throws in the final 21 seconds to extend Indiana leads from 1 point to 3, the last by Person giving the Pacers a 105-102 lead with 13 seconds to play. Milwaukee's Jay Humphries sank the second of two free throws with five seconds remaining and Detlef Schrempf added the final Indiana points after being fouled on the next inbounds pass.
Schrempf added 18 points for Indiana while Rik Smits contributed 16 points, Vern Fleming scored 13 and LaSalle Thompson pulled down 15 rebounds and scored 9 points. Jack Sikma led Milwaukee with 16 points, scoring 11 in the fourth quarter, while Ricky Pierce added 15.
Indiana (6-10) had lost 9 of its previous 11 games and the Pacers are winless away from home this season. Dropping Milwaukee (11-5) opened a stretch of five games in seven days, which continues Tuesday at Minnesota.
"During the season, you have big games you have to win. Minnesota is one of those games this year because it's on the road and it will help the team psychologically," Miller said. "We can get to .500 and get something rolling."
Indiana Coach Dick Versace would have liked an easier time, but praised his team for inspired play.
"The meetings had a lot to do with the open minds," Versace said. "The biggest difference was we played hard. I hadn't been able to get them to see they hadn't been playing as hard as they did tonight. It's nice to have them back. We backed off on our defensive pressure a bit once we got a 15-point lead. It's hard to put a good team away."
Sikma scored 6 points in a 12-3 Milwaukee run to open the fourth quarter, pulling the Bucks within 84-83 with a pair of free throws with 8:32 remaining.
"After getting off to such a great start and having to come back, it's like climbing the same hill twice," Sikma said. "We played well enough to get back into it. I'm disappointed."
Milwaukee pulled ahead 26-12, helped by hitting its first nine shots. Indiana had an 11-0 first-quarter run, then surged to an 18-1 run over the middle of the second quarter. Indiana led 58-46 at halftime, having completed a 28-point turnaround by outscoring the Bucks 46-18 over a 15:10 span.
"In the second quarter, we played without our brains for five or six minutes and let our emotions take over," Milwaukee Coach Del Harris said. "You have to use emotions. You can't let them use you. The first quarter came too easily. When they went into their risky kamakaze play, we just fell into a trap."
Clippers 102, Timberwolves 77
At Los Angeles, Bo Kimble scored a season-high 27 points and Charles Smith added 26 and grabbed 14 rebounds, leading the Clippers. Rookie Loy Vaught came off the bench to chip in with 12 points, and guards Gary Grant and Winston Garland added 10 apiece. Minnesota suffered its third consecutive loss and completed the four-game road swing with a 1-3 mark.