INDIANAPOLIS -- Fighting for their playoff lives, the Indiana Pacers turned to the energy provided by recently signed Lance Stephenson, the potent offense of Paul George and some of their most impressive defense this season to secure a huge victory.
George had 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Pacers defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 104-89 on Thursday, giving Indiana consecutive wins for the first time in two months.
Indiana, which is battling for an Eastern Conference playoff berth, defeated Toronto on Tuesday night. The Pacers had not won two in a row since beating Detroit on Feb. 4 and Oklahoma on Feb. 6. Indiana is 28-12 this season in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
With Chicago winning Thursday at Philadelphia, the Pacers (39-40) and Bulls (39-40) are tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat (38-40) are a half-game behind Indiana and Chicago in the race for the last two playoff spots.
"We now know exactly what we have to do on this upcoming road trip," said Indiana coach Nate McMillan, whose team plays at Orlando on Saturday and at Philadelphia on Monday. "We were solid on defense tonight, and we did a lot better job attacking. Those are things we have to do. We also did a better job with our spacing tonight."
While Stephenson contributed only nine points and five assists, his energy and defense obviously inspired Indiana.
"I'm just out there having fun," Stephenson said. "I love to feed off these fans. Tonight, we got into (the Bucks) and forced a lot of turnovers."
Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee (40-39) with 25 points, 23 during the first three quarters. Mirza Teletovic added 15, all on 3-pointers, but the Bucks committed 21 turnovers, which led to 29 Indiana points.
"We had way too many turnovers," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "We talked about it before the game, that we've got to take care of the ball. If you turn the ball over against Indiana, it puts you in a bad situation defensively, because they are going to take advantage of it, and they did. Once we started turning it over, we were a little hesitant to pass it."
"We were locked in defensively from the very beginning," said Indiana center Myles Turner, who finished with 10 points and six rebounds. "From here on out, we know we have to continue to bring up the defensive energy, especially in the second half."
A Monta Ellis 3-pointer with 6:07 remaining in the third quarter gave Indiana a 72-61 lead, capping a 9-0 and prompting a Milwaukee timeout. The Pacers increased their lead to 83-67 with 2:39 left in the third period.
Indiana made 11 of its first 15 field-goal attempts in the quarter and finished 12 of 19 (63.2 percent).
Indiana took complete advantage of nine second-quarter Bucks' turnovers, which were converted into 12 points, to grab a 56-50 halftime lead.
Milwaukee's strange second quarter included 76 percent field-goal shooting (10 of 13) -- 5 of 6 from 3-point range -- but the Bucks also allowed the Pacers to make 12 of 22 shots (54.5 percent) in that period.
Antetokounmpo had a 16-point first half and Teletovic added nine for Milwaukee. George scored 13 for the Pacers, who used a 13-2 second-quarter run to lead through 24 minutes.
"Indiana is also playing for the playoffs, and tonight was a tough game," Teletovic said. "What happened tonight happened, and we have to stay positive and just move on to the next game."
NOTES: The Bucks played without G Malcolm Brogdon (back soreness) and F John Henson (sprained left thumb). ... The Pacers were without G Glenn Robinson III (sore left calf) and C Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle). ... Milwaukee came into the game ranked second in field-goal shooting at 47.5 percent. ... Indiana came in as the league's third-best free-throw shooting team at 81.1 percent. ... The Pacers improved to 34-7 when leading after three quarters ... Indiana visits Orlando on Saturday. ... Milwaukee plays at Philadelphia on Saturday.