INDIANAPOLIS -- Lose a starter, plug in a former starter and keep on going.
That's what the Indiana Pacers have done. Power forward David West has missed three straight games with a lower back sprain. Tyler Hansbrough, who started at the end of the 2010-11 season, has stepped in and dominated in his absence.
Hansbrough continued his strong play when he scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Pacers' 102-78 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers have won three in a row after dropping four of their previous six games.
"Some guys are just more comfortable starting, getting in the rhythm of the game," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "I'm not sure what it is, but I'm glad for Tyler and for us."
Paul George added 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Pacers. Monta Ellis scored a team-high 22 points for Milwaukee.
The Pacers have won three straight games after losing four of their previous six games. They have a six-game lead on the Chicago Bulls for first place in the Central Division.
"I give credit to Indiana," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "They came out with a purpose tonight, especially in the second half and third quarter."
Hansbrough had 18 points and 11 rebounds and 14 points and 14 rebounds against Cleveland and Orlando, respectively, earlier this week in the first two games he started for West. Hansbrough will move back to the bench once West returns to the lineup.
"I have to figure out how to come off the bench, bring the same type of production that I do when I start," Hansbrough said. "In these recent games I'm letting the game come to me, not trying to force things or play outside of my abilities."
The Pacers blew the game open in the third quarter. They led 45-43 at halftime, but then went out and outscored the Bucks 28-11 in the third quarter. Milwaukee was only 3 of 22 from the field in the quarter. Hansbrough had half of his points in the third.
"What really gave us the margin in the third was that we really started playing defense and got out and started running," George said. "The momentum just went crazy out there."
The Bucks lost their cool in the second half. Center Larry Sanders was ejected after picking up two technical fouls in a matter of seconds after getting upset over a foul being called on him. Former Pacer Mike Dunleavy was ejected when he was given a flagrant 2 for a hard foul on top of Gerald Green's head in the fourth quarter.
"When (the Pacers) turn the intensity up, all teams get physical to some degree and you've got to be ready for that," Boylan said. "You've got to play through that and be able to execute your offense and establish yourself defensively."
Bucks guards Brandon Jennings and J.J. Redick combined to go 2 of26 from the field, including 0 of 9 on 3-pointers.
"It was our worst shooting night of the year as a team, and it was my worst ever, I have to find a way to bounce back," Jennings said.
NOTES: West won't play in Saturday's game at Chicago and coach Frank Vogel said it's unlikely that he'll play in Monday's game against the Chicago Bulls. "He's walking better," Vogel said. "Each day it's been getting better, but not to a level where he can play yet. They're treating it every day. He needs time heal." ... There's a chance that small forward Danny Granger, out all but five games with a left knee injury, could play during the team's four-game West Coast road trip next week. Granger practiced for about 20 minutes on Thursday. "He looked like he hadn't played in a few weeks, still some rust there," Vogel said. "It's going to take time to get his rhythm and timing back." ... Bucks forward Luc Mbah a Moute missed his seventh straight game with a sprained toe and forward Ersan Ilyasova missed his fourth straight with a left hip injury.