Milwaukee got 25 points and 14 rebounds from Joe Smith en route to a 95-86 victory over Indiana on Tuesday night, its third victory over the Pacers this season. The teams play again Wednesday at Indiana in their fourth and final meeting.
“We’ve got another shot at them,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s a hell of a challenge because they’re a hell of a team. They’re the toughest team we’ve played. They really are.”
Smith paid an equal compliment to the Pacers when asked about the Bucks’ good fortune against Indiana this season.
“That’s huge for us,” Smith said. “For us to be up 3-0 on them, that lets us know how good we actually are.”
The victory snapped a four-game home losing streak for the Bucks (37-37), their longest since 2000.
Six Bucks scored in double figures led by Smith’s second straight 25-point night, his season high.
Jermaine O’Neal led the Pacers (54-20) with 20 points. Indiana had its four-game winning streak snapped.
Smith has four 20-point games in his last five. Before last week, his season high was 19 points.
He helped Milwaukee outrebound Indiana, 42-33.
“Joe Smith just killed us,” said Jeff Foster, who had eight points and 10 rebounds for Indiana. “We didn’t have an answer for him.”
Smith said he enjoyed the game’s physical play.
“Part of the game plan was to not let them hold us, push us, grab us and things like that,” he said. “We just tried to go out there and hit them before they hit us.”
Milwaukee defeated Indiana 93-79, on Oct. 31 at Conseco Fieldhouse and came from behind to win 101-96 on Dec. 26 at the Bradley Center.
Tuesday’s game more resembled the first matchup, as Indiana did not lead after the Bucks used a 22-8 run late in the second quarter to take a 54-46 halftime lead.
The Pacers, who shot 42.5 percent, got no closer than two the rest of the way and no closer than four in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Desmond Mason, who had 10 points for the Bucks. “We met the challenge. There have been times we’ve played teams that we definitely should have beat and we haven’t been prepared. I think everybody knows that.”
Leading scorer Michael Redd had just 12 points for Milwaukee and played only eight minutes in the second half after sustaining a cut near his right eye with 10:43 remaining in the third quarter.
He left the game with Milwaukee up seven, 56-49. Less than four minutes later, Indiana had cut the lead to 58-56, but two free throws by Smith made it 72-62 as Redd returned with 1:11 left in the period.
“I feel like a boxer right now,” Redd said after the game. “It’s sore. I’ve got a little bit of a headache, but I’ll be fine.”
The victory moved the Bucks within a half-game of the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“It’s good to know, but trust me in the playoffs it doesn’t mean much,” Toni Kukoc said of the Bucks’ 3-0 record over Indiana. “But this win was veryimportant to us going into the last eight games.”
Bucks F Keith Van Horn, who has averaged 17.9 points and 6.9 rebounds in his 19 games since being traded to Milwaukee, missed his second straight contest with a left ankle sprain and left calf contusion. He hurt his leg against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. … Pacers G Jamaal Tinsley (flu) did not travel with the team. Kenny Anderson had 14 points off the bench in hisabsence.