Pacers host Central-leading Bucks in pursuit of fifth straight win

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner struggled to find his offensive rhythm in the first part of the season — until he came back from a one-game injury absence.

The 6-foot-11 Turner averaged 10.9 points on 46 percent shooting and 5.4 rebounds in the first 18 games. After missing a game with a sore ankle, Turner has been on the upswing, averaging 14.4 points on 53 percent shooting and 9.6 rebounds in the past eight games.

Turner scored a season-high 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting, grabbed 12 rebounds and matched a season high with five blocked shots in a 109-101 victory over visiting Washington on Monday night. Turner and the Pacers (17-10) will be challenged by a visit by the Milwaukee Bucks (18-8) on Wednesday night.

“Just making reads,” Turner said of his improved shooting. “Been watching a lot of film and just staying confident. Sometimes when your shot doesn’t fall, you can’t worry about that. You just have to keep grinding, keep shooting, just keep being who you are.”

Turner also is becoming more of a vocal leader, point guard Darren Collison said.

“He’s playing hard,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said of Turner. “He’s defending the basket.”

The Pacers, who have won four games in a row and are second to Milwaukee in the Central Division, saw a 25-point lead (87-62) evaporate with a 19-0 run by the Wizards. Washington, which was playing without injured point guard John Wall, got the lead narrowed to one point at 98-97 with 4:45 remaining.

“We got playing way too loose and had too many turnovers and not playing the game the right way,” Turner said. “These guys (Wizards) tested us in every way possible. We stayed resilient and made it work.”

McMillan was disappointed with the sloppy play, which included 24 turnovers.

“We started to play to the scoreboard,” McMillan said. “And we started jacking a couple of shots and they got aggressive, put their head down and started to attack. I believe in the basketball gods and we almost got punished tonight by not continuing to play the game the right way on both ends of the floor.”

The Bucks played without Giannis Antetokounmpo on Monday night but still blew by Cleveland 108-92. Antetokounmpo, who was sidelined with a sore neck, told reporters he expected to be fine for Wednesday night’s game.

Point guard Eric Bledsoe scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Bucks.

“Everybody just had to step up,” Bledsoe told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That’s almost 30 points a game that we’re missing.”

The 6-11 Antetokounmpo is averaging 26.5 points and 13.3 rebounds per game.

Guard Malcolm Brogdon described it as a team win.

“I thought we showed what we could do when Giannis isn’t there, that we’re still a good team,” Brogdon said.

The Pacers have been trying to prove the same thing with leading scorer Victor Oladipo out with a sore right knee. Oladipo has missed 11 consecutive games. The Pacers are 7-4 without him, plus another win when they topped Atlanta after his early departure with the injury.

The Pacers were 0-7 when Oladipo didn’t play last season.

“When Vic went out last year it was more of a gut punch then anything,” Turner said. “We were like, ‘Oh man, what are we going do now?’ We didn’t know how to react. This year we’re like, ‘We can do this, too.’ Guys have just been playing well.”

Oladipo returned to practice Tuesday and is listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game.

“We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Oladipo said.

McMillan said when Oladipo does come back, he will likely add minutes gradually as he regains conditioning.

The Bucks beat the Pacers 118-101 in the opener at its new arena, Fiserv Forum, on Oct. 19.