MILWAUKEE -- Though they've played well in his absence, but the Milwaukee Bucks missed Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Out seven of the last eight games with a bone bruise in his left knee, Dunleavy returned with a splash Tuesday night, scoring 17 points off the bench in Milwaukee's 98-93 victory over the Indiana Pacers at the BMO Harris Bradley Center -- their fifth victory in the last six games. His points, though, were just the tip of the iceberg. The veteran swingman was a factor at both ends of the court, pulling down six rebounds and blocking two shots in 27 minutes.
"It's like he wasn't even out," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "He made a couple of shots but he always has the ability to do it and it really draws a lot of attention. Mike's not known for being a great athlete but he's really long and has a great basketball set."
Dunleavy's effort was the perfect complement to Brandon Jennings, who set a season-high with 34 points while dishing out six steals. Jennings scored seven points during a one-minute stretch in the fourth quarter to put the Bucks ahead for good
Tied at 85-85 with 4:31 left, Jennings hit a 16-footer from the corner to put Milwaukee up, 87-85. After Larry Sanders blocked David West, George Hill fouled Jennings on a three-point miss with 4:09 left. Jennings hit two of three to put the Bucks up four and on Milwaukee's next possession, Jennings' three have the Bucks a 92-87 lead with 3:39 left.
"He had some great shots and made some big plays," Dunleavy said of Jennings.
The Pacers brought a three-game winning streak to Milwaukee, where they had won four in a row before losing, 99-85, on Nov. 14.
Unlike that first meeting, in which Indiana trailed by as many as 32 points, the Pacers were in control early, leading 48-45 at the half and stayed within two possessions during most of the second half.
They dominated Milwaukee on the stat sheet, holding a decisive rebounding advantage (51-37) while also led to a 23-14 edge on second-chance points and outscored the Bucks, 46-38 in the paint.
"We had a ton of chances," said Paul George, who finished with 16 points and 19 rebounds for his first double-double since Nov. 3. "They made a lot of tough shots but we had a lot of possession where we should have made baskets. It just came down to that. "They've got Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings taking step-back 3's. We'll live with that. They're just fortunate on their end that they made those."
Yet the Pacers had no answer for Dunleavy or Jennings.
"Brandon Jennings has been struggling from the field, 32 percent in the last five games," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "He broke out of his slump in a big way."
Playing with a bruised left thigh, Roy Hibbert was largely ineffective, scoring eight points in 21 minutes. George Hill led Indiana with 18 points.
The Pacers battled back from eight down early in the fourth, drawing within one on Hill's 17-footer with 9:26 to play and taking back the lead at 8:52 on two free throws by Tyler Hansborough.
Drew Gooden missed a pair of free throws that would have put Milwaukee back on top with 8:33 left. Ian Mahinmi's short jumper extended the Pacers' lead to three with 8:22 to play.
Milwaukee went back ahead by one, 79-78, on two free throws from Monta Ellis and two more by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made it 81-78 with seven minutes to play.
The Pacers drew within three, 96-93, in the closing seconds but Jennings' two free throws with 13.3 seconds left extended the Bucks' lead to five. Hill was called for travelling with 10 seconds left and Milwaukee ran out the clock, snapping the Pacers' winning streak at three.
NOTES: Milwaukee is 5-1 against Central Division opponents this season and remained a half-game behind first-place Chicag. ... The Pacers connected on six of their first seven shots Tuesday and shot 68.8 percent in the first quarter. ... Vogel downplayed any kind of remaining animosity between the two teams, stemming from a scuffle last season in Indianapolis. "I don't think we're bringing any of that into the games," Vogel said. "Obviously if there's a hard foul, that might spark a memory but our focus is on winning games." ... Milwaukee's Joel Pryzbilla missed the game after being suspended for throwing the ball at a referee Saturday against the Clippers.