MILWAUKEE — If there was any rust in Mike Dunleavy’s game, it certainly didn’t show.
After missing the last six games and seven of eight with a bone bruise in his left knee, Dunleavy looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. While he may have picked up right where he left off, the Bucks needed him back and his impact in Tuesday’s 98-93 victory over Indiana was evident.
Filling the stat sheet, Dunleavy scored 17 points, grabbed six rebounds and even blocked two shots. Most importantly, his knee held up fine, as he played 26 minutes in what he called a “dogfight” of a game afterwards.
“I felt comfortable out there,” Dunleavy said. “Maybe my condition is a little bit down, but otherwise I feel good. Sometimes when you miss some time, other things heal up too, so your body feels pretty good. I guess that’s the positive of it, I hate missing games but it is good to be back and good to get a win.”
Prior to the game, Indiana head coach Frank Vogel quipped that he knew Dunleavy would give the Bucks a big lift and was hoping that it started Wednesday night in Memphis. Much to his dismay, that wasn’t the case. Dunleavy hit a 3 to open the fourth quarter and later made an athletic play to tip-in his own miss to put the Bucks up 94-88 with 1:35 to play.
“Mike’s not known for being a great athlete but Mike is really long,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “He’s really long and has a really great basketball sense. When he’s around the rim, usually something good happens.”
A sneaky-good defensive rebounder, Dunleavy had four rebounds in the fourth quarter, including the biggest one of the night. With the Bucks up 96-93 with 19 seconds left, Pacers forward Paul George missed a 3. Indiana had no chance at an offensive rebound, as Dunleavy executed a perfect box-out and grabbed the ball.
Dominated on the glass for most of the game, Dunleavy played a big part in Milwaukee’s 8-3 rebounding advantage over the game’s final five minutes.
“Just kind of doing whatever I can to scrap out a win,” Dunleavy said. “I thought it was a great overall team effort, everybody pitched in, in their own way.”
Bucks guard Brandon Jennings scored a season-high 34 points on 13 of 22 shooting, breaking out of a mini-shooting slump. Jennings scored 11 of Milwaukee’s last 13 points, including a step-back 3 to seal another crucial victory over a division rival.
After winning just seven divisional games in last year’s lockout-shortened season, the Bucks are now 5-1 against the rest of the Central Division.
“They’ve got Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings taking step-back 3s,” George said. “We’ll live with that. They’re just fortunate on their end that they made those.”