Since Frank Vogel was named interim coach for Indiana nearly two weeks ago, the Pacers are winning at an alarming rate.
They hope this newfound success can continue against a Milwaukee Bucks team that has regularly frustrated them.
The surging Pacers look to win for the seventh time in eight games and avoid losing their seventh straight to the slumping Bucks on Saturday night at the Bradley Center.
Indiana (23-28) defeated Minnesota 116-105 on Friday, improving to 6-1 since Vogel took over for the fired Jim O’Brien, and with the lone loss coming against Southeast Division-leading Miami. This stretch has helped the Pacers climb into the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, pulling within one game of seventh-place Philadelphia, while opening a two-game lead over Charlotte.
Jones scored all 19 of his points in the final period to help the Pacers overcome a seven-point deficit. Jones keyed the victory by going 6 of 7 from the field and hitting both 3-point shots.
“Dahntay Jones was red hot,” Vogel said. “Dahntay stays ready. He’s a good basketball player, a good defensive player and he got hot.”
Jones, who played sparingly under O’Brien, has led the Pacers in scoring in two of the last four games.
“It’s a confidence-builder when you know when you’re going to come in and get minutes,” Jones said. “Frank’s instilled confidence in everybody.”
Vogel has also has the offense clicking. The Pacers have reached triple digits in all seven games under their new coach after hitting the century mark in only seven of their previous 23 contests.
It could be difficult to reach triple figures against a defensive-oriented Milwaukee team that likes to slow things down, but Indiana is likely more concerned with simply winning.
The Pacers have dropped six straight to the Bucks since a 115-108 victory on April 15, 2009, and have also lost the last five in Milwaukee. They lost the first two games this season by a total of six points, but haven’t met since early December.
The Bucks (20-32) are heading in the opposite direction of Indiana, having lost six of seven to fall from one-half game back of the East’s final playoff spot to 3 1/2 out.
Milwaukee is coming off Friday’s 89-86 loss to Memphis, and its middling offense has been particularly bad lately, having scored fewer than 95 points in all six games this month.
“Offensively, we couldn’t execute like we wanted to,” John Salmons(notes) said after the loss to the Grizzlies. “That’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel the whole year, being consistent on the offensive end.”
The Bucks and are 5-29 this season when scoring 95 or fewer, compared to 15-3 when reaching 96.
Bogut, who sat out Milwaukee’s 94-90 win at Indiana on Nov. 5 with a migraine, had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the Bucks’ 97-95 home win over the Pacers on Dec. 8.