NBA Basketball

Bucks look to halt mini funk vs. Pacers

The Milwaukee Bucks have hit an unintended snag and have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.

And the NBA-best Bucks (48-16) blew leads of at least 16 points in both contests.

Milwaukee will look to halt its brief funk and regain its swagger when it hosts the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.

The Bucks blew a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, and it got worse Monday when the lowly Phoenix Suns, who had trailed by 16 in the second quarter, overcame a 10-point, final-quarter deficit to sweep the two-game season series.

"It's kind of hard to think we lost to Phoenix twice," All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo told reporters.

The setbacks came after Milwaukee won 19 of its previous 21 contests.

The Bucks couldn't defend Donovan Mitchell (career-best 46 points) in the loss to Utah and repeatedly misfired (36.8 percent) in the loss to Phoenix.

The quartet of All-Star forward Khris Middleton (six points, 1-of-13 shooting), backup forward Nikola Mirotic (13, 3 of 14), center Brook Lopez (10, 3 of 11) and point guard Eric Bledsoe (15, 5 of 15) were a combined 12 of 53 from the field against the Suns. Middleton was 9 of 37 in the two losses.

"Definitely it's not going to happen often," Antetokounmpo said of the shooting issues. "Those guys have been consistent all year, and there's going to be always nights like that. We've got to pick them up as a team.

"They're going to bounce back in the Indiana game and everything's going to be fine."

Antetokounmpo had 21 points and 13 rebounds against the Suns for his 45th double-double of the season.

Neither Antetokounmpo nor Bledsoe is overly alarmed with the consecutive defeats.

"We've been through it," Bledsoe told reporters. "You can't win every game. It's basketball at the end of the day. We got to move on and go to the next one."

Milwaukee will be looking to defeat Indiana for the third time in four meetings this season. The Bucks posted a 118-101 win on Oct. 19 in the first matchup in Milwaukee.

The Pacers (42-23) had lost three of four games before posting a 105-96 home win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.

Small forward Bojan Bogdanovic scored 27 points against Chicago and has topped 20 points in each of the past five games.

The season-ending injury to star guard Victor Oladipo in late January opened the door for Bogdanovic to be more of a scorer, and he hasn't disappointed. He has produced 13 20-point efforts while averaging 22.1 per game since Oladipo suffered the knee injury.

Bogdanovic was 4 of 5 from 3-point range against the Bulls, and Indiana will need him to remain hot, as the stop in Milwaukee is the start of eight road contests in 11 games.

"We're looking to go into some people's houses and take games," Pacers forward Thaddeus Young told reporters. "If we can sustain their punches and put ourselves in a position (to win) at the end of games, I think we'll be fine."

Center Myles Turner had 10 points, 11 rebounds and a career-best seven blocked shots in the win over Chicago. The Pacers held the Bulls to 38.7 percent from the field and a woeful 4 of 25 from 3-point range.

"We just locked up," Turner said after the win. "Played some great defense and made some big-time shots."

Indiana backup forward Domantas Sabonis (ankle) is expected to miss his fifth straight game. He also will miss Sunday's game at Philadelphia.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 6, 2019

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