MILWAUKEE (AP) — A new approach has the Indiana Pacers playing their best basketball of the season.
Danny Granger scored 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter to help the Indiana Pacers snap a six-game losing streak to the Milwaukee Bucks with a 103-97 victory on Saturday night.
Darren Collison added 22 points as the Pacers improved to 7-1 since Frank Vogel took over as the interim coach on Jan. 30, replacing the fired Jim O’Brien.
“Honestly, I just think we started playing toward our strengths” Granger said of Vogel’s new emphasis. “Whereas before, we kind of just tried to mold everybody into the system that we had. Now, we play inside-out. We’ve got a really quick point guard, so we play up-tempo. We space people out because we have a lot of good shooters. We’re just playing to the strengths that we have with this team.”
Collison, who scored eight points in the fourth, agreed that the team is looking to use its strengths more than ever. He also credits Vogel.
“I think he’s making it easier for us to play more to our strengths,” Collison said. “For myself, he’s making it easier for me to get to the paint and create for myself and others. For Danny, he’s making it easier for him to get better shots. And Roy Hibbert, he’s keeping him at the blocks. He’s just simplifying the game for us.”
Vogel turned the compliments back toward the players.
“Our guys are starting to understand how good they are,” he said. “They’re taking care of their business in the fourth quarter with poise and patience.”
Granger helped the Pacers pull away when he sparked a 14-0 run with two 3-pointers and a free throw that made it 91-78 with 3:56 remaining.
Leading 75-72 at the end of the third, Indiana missed its first seven shots and made just four of eight free throws before Granger’s 3-pointer with 6:58 to play. Fortunately for the Pacers, Milwaukee missed 12 straight shots during the decisive surge.
“That’s a sign of a playoff team the way you shut another team down in the fourth quarter,” Vogel said.
The victory put the Bucks (20-33) five games behind the Pacers (24-28) in the loss column as Indiana continues its run to the playoffs. They currently hold the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
Indiana’s last victory over the Bucks was 115-108 on April 15, 2009, and its last win in Milwaukee was 105-101 on April 4, 2008.
Roy Hibbert added 13 points and eight rebounds for Indiana, which has won three of its last four road games.
The reserves led the Bucks with Carlos Delfino scoring 21 points, Keyon Dooling had 13 and Earl Boykins 11. Andrew Bogut had 12 rebounds, but only nine points. Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings each had 10 points, the most of any of the starters.
John Salmons said lack of execution doomed Milwaukee in the fourth.
“We didn’t run the plays, just didn’t execute the plays like we should,” he said. “Didn’t have any ball movement.”
The Bucks went almost six minutes without scoring during Indiana’s decisive run, but Delfino and Keyon Dooling helped Milwaukee make it close late.
Delfino scored five points down the stretch and Dooling made two free throws that made it 101-95 with 10.3 seconds left. But Granger answered with two free throws before Boykins hit a 15-foot jumper for the final margin.
Milwaukee has lost seven of eight to fall from a half-game back of the East’s final playoff spot to 4 out.
Granger went 8 for 15 from the field and made 10 of 13 free throws, including 5 of 6 down the stretch.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute gave Milwaukee its only lead of the second half when he sank two free throws that made it 78-77 with 9:08 left to play. The Bucks would not score again until Delfino sank a pair of free throws with 3:11 remaining.
NOTES: The Bucks honored the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers during a special halftime ceremony. Packers president and chief executive officer Mark Murphy, CB Charles Woodson and S Charlie Peprah each took turns thanking the crowd for their enthusiastic support during the season and promised to bring another championship home next season. Murphy then walked along the baseline near the Indiana Pacers bench and allowed fans to reach out and touch the Lombardi Trophy. Woodson, Peprah and Murphy returned to their sideline seats for the rest of the game. … Bucks F Corey Maggette left midway through the first quarter with low back pain and did not return. He scored eight points, but the injury snapped his string of 10 straight games in double figures.