Even though the season is in its second week, the Indiana Pacers are taking these early games seriously.
The Pacers look to win their third straight and hand the Milwaukee Bucks a second straight defeat when the Central Division rivals meet at the Bradley Center.
Indiana is off to its fourth straight 4-1 start, but are already looking up at the 6-0 Detroit Pistons in the Central.
“We wanted to get off to a good start,” Pacers guard Stephen Jackson said. “We play in one of the toughest divisions in the league and we want to keep pace with Detroit so we don’t fall behind.”
The Pacers come in off a 102-90 victory over New Jersey on Friday in which they led by 27 points after three quarters. Ron Artest scored a season-high 30 points and Jermaine O’Neal added 20 for Indiana, which shot 52 percent.
Starting point guard Jamaal Tinsley was limited to six minutes due to a sinus infection. Backup Anthony Johnson took advantage of extended playing time, scoring a season-high 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
“Anthony Johnson, we know is a heckuva player,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “He made a point tonight. He was a key part of this game.”
The high-scoring Bucks had their bid for a 4-0 start foiled by Golden State in a 110-103 loss Tuesday. Milwaukee has started a season with four straight 100-point games for the first time since 1997-98.
The strong play of Michael Redd and T.J. Ford has powered the strong start for Milwaukee. Redd is shooting 52 percent and averaging 28.8 points while Ford — who missed all of last season while recovering from cervical spine surgery— is averaging 10.5 assists.
Redd averaged 20.3 points as Milwaukee split four games with Indiana last season.
The Bucks are 47-20 all-time at home against the Pacers, winning eight of the last 10.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 11): Pacers - 2nd place, 1 1/2 GB, Central Division. Bucks - 3rd place, 2 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Pacers - O’Neal, 21.2 ppg and 9.2 rpg; Tinsley, 4.6 apg. Bucks - Redd, 28.8 ppg; Smith, 12 rpg; Ford, 10.5 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: 2-2.
LAST MEETING: March 28; Pacers, 90-76. At Milwaukee, Reggie Miller scored 12 of his 22 points in the third quarter as the Pacers handed the Bucks their sixth straight loss.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pacers - 2-0 on the road; Bucks - 1-1 at home.