The Indiana Pacers weren’t about to let the depleted and struggling Milwaukee Bucks get back into the game early in the second half.
Roy Hibbert made sure of it.
Hibbert had 24 points, eight blocks and 10 rebounds as the Pacers remained unbeaten following a 104-77 triumph over the Bucks.
Indiana is the first NBA team to start 9-0 since the 2002-03 Dallas Mavericks, who began the campaign with 14 straight victories.
Hibbert was 8-of-10 from the field and sunk all eight of his foul shots, while Paul George added 22 points in the victory.
O.J. Mayo netted 20 points to lead Milwaukee, which has dropped four straight and five of its last six.
The Bucks were without starting point guard Brandon Knight, starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova and bench player Caron Butler. Zaza Pachulia and Gary Neal both returned from foot injuries, but Pachulia had just four points on 2- of-14 shooting, while Neal chipped in 11 points.
The Pacers led 31-21 after a quarter of play and by as many as 16 in the first half before taking a 52-37 advantage into the locker room. Nate Wolters, though, capped a 9-0 Milwaukee flurry with a layup to start the third quarter and pull the Bucks within 52-46.
Hibbert and Indiana answered a bit later in the frame. Hibbert converted a pair of three-point plays during a 10-2 spurt to match the largest lead of the game at 71-55.
Indiana took a 75-61 cushion into the fourth, where the hosts cruised to the easy win.
Notes: The Pacers’ largest lead was the final score … Lance Stephenson had 11 points for Indiana … Indiana shot 50.6 percent (40-of-79) from the floor, while Milwaukee was just 34.1 percent (30-of-88) from the field.
“Excited about the win. Give credit to Milwaukee for putting up a good fight with an undermanned team. Roy Hibbert was sensational, proving night in and night out he’s the best rim protector in the league. And he brought it on the offensive end tonight. Our bench has been solid all year. Luis Scola is one of the best power forwards in the NBA, forget just starters. If we didn’t have David West, he’d be playing 35 minutes a night. C.J. (Watson) is just solid. He defends, he makes plays, he makes shots. (Any significance on tomorrow night?) It’s about the next game. Every game could be about getting homecourt advantage or not getting homecourt advantage.”
“(On maintaining the lead) (It was) defense, stop giving up their threes, get back in transition, nothing easy. We went through lapses where we weren’t communicating, weren’t giving it enough effort. But we went ahead and finished up the game. (On taking advantage of the matchup with Zaza Pachulia) I know Pachulia has given me problems in the past in Atlanta. I just took it upon myself to take it as a mental challenge and overcome that and give it my all. (On the game getting a little chippy) We have something special here. We want to win and we have to go up there and take it. I don’t mind when people get a little chippy. We have each other’s back out there. We’re aggressive. We don’t want to lose. (On the game against Chicago tomorrow and keeping the streak going) Just go ahead and get some rest, watch some film tomorrow, just get ready for a really tough game.”
“This is the same story every night, we come out and play hard. We make them shoot jump shots and our big front line comes away with the boards. We know we can hold our own with any team with our defense. Our defense has been really great. We are in a great position. We must continue to work, hang tough, win the games that we’re supposed to win and continue to improve. Tomorrow we must go in there with the mentality that we have now, play our game and let it come to us.”
“I feel great playing here in Indianapolis. I think we have a good team and as long as we can continue to play at this level we should be alright. We know that we can’t win them all. There can be some hot and cold nights. We must prepare ourselves and get better as it is a long season. The good thing here is that everybody helps. I’m glad to be in Indianapolis and I like it very well.”