Granger was suspended for Friday’s 122-111 road win over the Toronto Raptors after striking Chicago’s Andres Nocioni in the face on Wednesday. Granger, who leads the Pacers (23-36) with 18.2 points per game, was one of several Indiana players unavailable Friday.
Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Tinsley were both out with sore left knees, while Shawne Williams did not travel to Toronto after leaving the team for personal reasons on Wednesday when a man was arrested for murder after leaving Williams’ Indianapolis home.
Despite all the absences, the Pacers had their second-highest scoring game of the season. Mike Dunleavy matched a career-high with 36 points while Kareem Rush added 23 points and nine rebounds in Granger’s place.
“We’ve dealt with that all year long,” Dunleavy said of playing short-handed. “It seems like each game there’s been somebody out, maybe more than one person in a couple of cases. It’s something we’re used to. This team will stick with it. We’ve had some tough times but we’ll stay together and fight through it.”
The win was only Indiana’s fourth in the last 17 games. Despite that, the Pacers are still in playoff contention, sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference - 3 1/2 games behind Philadelphia and New Jersey for the final postseason spot. After Sunday’s game, their schedule doesn’t get easier, however, with road games against Houston, San Antonio and Cleveland.
Milwaukee (23-37) is also in playoff contention despite its own struggles. The Bucks have lost 17 of 24 since Jan. 11, including a 96-94 defeat to the Spurs on Saturday.
Michael Redd scored 25 points and Andrew Bogut added 17 and 15 rebounds for Milwaukee, which shot just 39.8 percent from the field but led 58-51 with 7:32 left in the third quarter when Mo Williams was ejected. The Bucks trailed most of the fourth quarter before getting a chance to send the game into overtime.
Redd was fouled late, but after he missed the first free throw and intentionally missed the second, Bogut’s putback at the buzzer failed to drop.
“There were a lot of opportunities along the way,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “It didn’t come down to those free throws.”
Milwaukee is 12th in the East - 4 1/2 games behind the 76ers and Nets. Desmond Mason said that despite the team’s struggles over the last month, the comeback against the defending NBA champs is a sign the team is improving.
“For us to come out and bring the energy we did, I think it speaks a lot about the direction this team is trying to get to,” Mason said.
Redd had 37 points in Milwaukee’s 104-92 win over Indiana on Jan. 24, snapping a four-game losing streak to the Pacers.
The Bucks’ last win at Conseco Fieldhouse came on Dec. 7, 2004.