MILWAUKEE – Chris Copeland’s driving layup with 1.2 seconds remaining gave the Indiana Pacers a 104-102 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night that moved them back into first place in the Eastern Conference.
Copeland finished with a season-high 18 points. Luis Scola also recorded a season high with 24 points and Evan Turner added 23 for Indiana, which benched all of its usual starters for the entire game.
Coach Frank Vogel made the move after saying his team appeared tired following a 107-88 home loss to Atlanta on Sunday, when the Pacers were held to a franchise-low 23 points in the first half.
Even without the starters, Indiana moved a half-game ahead of the Heat heading into Friday’s matchup in Miami.
Copeland’s shot came after Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton had tied the game at 102 after making three free throws. Middleton drew a foul while attempting a shot near the 3-point arc with 4.9 seconds remaining that referees initially ruled a 2-point attempt. After a review, the call was reversed, sending Middleton to the line for three shots.
Following a pair of timeouts, the Pacers inbounded the ball to Copeland, who drove past his defender for the winning shot.
After leading the East most of the season, the Pacers had lost five of six games coming into the matchup with the Bucks. Still, the Pacers came in just a half-game behind Miami, which lost at Memphis.
The Bucks, who had only eight players available due to injuries, have lost six in a row. Brandon Knight had 25 points and Ramon Sessions 20 for Milwaukee. Jeff Adrien pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds.
The game featured 23 lead changes.
Usual Indiana starters Paul George, David West, George Hill and Lance Stephenson dressed but didn’t play. Another starter, Roy Hibbert, was inactive for the game. All five are expected to start against the Heat. Vogel insisted that the move would allow the starters to get some minor injuries healed and for his reserves to play extended minutes.
The Pacers’ starting lineup consisted of Scola, Turner, Rasual Butler, Ian Mahinmi and Donald Sloan. The five had a combined scoring average of 21.7 points, equal to George’s per-game average.
The Pacers built a nine-point lead in the fourth before the Bucks’ late rally. A runner by Knight gave the Bucks their first lead of the quarter at 91-90 with 4:17 remaining.
Turner’s driving layup put Indiana back in front 99-97. After Knight missed a layup, Butler sank two free throws to extend the Pacers’ lead to four. A quick layup by Adrien cut the lead to two with 17 seconds remaining.
Sloan missed a pair of free throws but the Pacers secured the rebound. Lavoy Allen made one of two free throws to extend the lead to 102-99.
The Pacers held a 53-50 lead at the half, paced by Scola’s 16 points and 14 from Turner. Sessions and Knight each had 11 first-half points for the Bucks.
The game was tied at 25 after the first quarter. Scola tallied 12 points in the period for Indiana.