Rally falls short at Milwaukee

A 23-point deficit in the first quarter proves insurmountable as Pacers make it close at the end before losing on the road.

George Hill tried to save his team for a second consecutive night, but this time his last-second shot rimmed out.

The point guard whose deciding layup gave the Indiana Pacers a 103-101 win at Washington had a 3-point look to tie but it curled around and off iron as the Milwaukee Bucks celebrated a 111-107 victory Thursday night at BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Hill scored 24 points, including 6-of-10 in 3-pointers, for his sixth 20-point effort in the last eight games. Unfortunately, the Pacers (31-41) lost for the seven time in those games to fall into a three-way tie for ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

The visitors had one of their worst starts of the season as the Bucks (36-36) seized a 23-point lead in the first quarter. But just like the night before, when the Pacers rallied to prevail after trailing by 10 points in the final quarter, they mounted another comeback.

Pacers guard C.J. Miles scored 26 points, reserve guard C.J. Watson had 23 and forward Luis Scola, playing for an inactive David West, added 15 as Indiana made it interesting at the end. Hill scored 15 of his 24 in the final quarter.

Hill dribbled from outside to the baseline and then back out to the 3-point line, he let fly on a potential game-tying 3-pointer that caromed around the inside of the rim and fell off with 1.9 seconds remaining.

“I’m proud of our fight trying to get back into it,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said in an interview televised by Fox Sports Indiana, “but you can’t start that way.”

Vogel added about the early 23-point deficit, “This was different. … We just weren’t good early.”

The Bucks escaped with their second consecutive victory as forward Ersan Ilyasova scored a game-high 34 points.

Indiana made 14-of-30 3-pointers to make it a close game. The Bucks were 9-of-19 from beyond the arc.

But the Pacers have continually struggled defensively down the stretch. Opponents have scored more than 100 points in six of the last seven games. Indiana fell to 7-23 when allowing 100 points or more.

The Bucks owned a decisive 42-24 scoring advantage from points in the paint.

West didn’t play after suffering an allergic reaction prior to the game. Reserve guard Rodney Stuckey also missed his third consecutive game with a sore calf. Pacers players have combined to miss 204 games due to injuries this season.

The Pacers return home Sunday to host the Dallas Mavericks (45-27). Half of the remaining 10 regular-season games are at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. After Sunday, the Pacers play four consecutive games against teams battling for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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