for this game

Dunleavy, Pacers keep slim playoff hopes alive

Apr 5, 2008 - 4:18 AM By JR Radcliffe PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- It was some time in the third quarter when Jermaine O'Neal and the Indiana Pacers saw the final score from Atlanta on the Bradley Center scoreboard - giving the club some more incentive.

Mike Dunleavy had 27 points and 11 rebounds as the Pacers kept their frail playoff hopes alive with a 105-101 victory over the host Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, staving off a series of rallies throughout the course of the contest.

With Atlanta's 109-104 loss against the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the evening, Indiana moved within three games of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We still talk about it," O'Neal said. "We do watch the standings, we do talk about it a lot. We knew Atlanta had lost the game before this game was over, so we knew we had to come up with this one."

"At this point in the season, if you still have a chance to get in there, that's tons of motivation," Dunleavy said. "Six games to go now and we're mathematically alive, so we have to keep fighting."

Overcoming a series of Milwaukee rallies, Indiana (32-44) never trailed in Milwaukee and won their seventh game in 10 tries - the first time this season it boasted such a run.

"We had to hang in there on the road against an explosive team, and we did what was necessary to get a win," Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said. "It was an important win for us. Atlanta lost, so we're one step closer."

Dunleavy's 3-pointer with 5:53 to play in the fourth quarter replenished Indiana's lead to 87-82, after Milwaukee had drawn within two points on the last of several occasions in the fourth quarter.

The Bucks never got closer than two points, and Dunleavy's dunk with 3:16 to go made it 96-89.

"Mike is having an extraordinary year for us," O'Brien said. "What we've asked him to do, he's done at a very high level. He's a clutch performer and he's very tough-minded on defense. I'm extremely pleased with what Michael has given us."

During Dunleavy's flying jam, officials ruled an off-the-ball foul by Royal Ivey simultaneously, and the subsequent Travis Diener free throw gave the Pacers their largest lead of the final quarter at 97-89.

"There was lot of runs," Dunleavy said. "We didn't ever put them out of reach, and they found a way to hung in there. Fortunately, we hung on in the end."

A flagrant foul by Dunleavy helped the Bucks to draw as close as 104-101 with under 30 seconds to play, but Indiana hit seven of its final eight free throws and prevailed.

Jeff Foster finished with 15 rebounds and Troy Murphy chipped in with 17 and six assists for the Pacers. O'Neal was effective with 11 points in 19 minutes, but he remained on restricted minutes in his third game back from a bone bruise on his left knee.

"That 20 minutes (played) creeps up on you real quick," O'Neal said. "Sometimes, it creeps up on you in a tough situation, like the fourth quarter where the other team is making its run. I actually asked to stick around, and he kind of looked me off, so I knew what the answer was."

Michael Redd scored 28 points and Andrew Bogut notched a double-double of 21 and 15 rebounds for the Bucks, who found out earlier Friday that rookie forward-center Yi Jianlian will miss the remaining eight games of the season with a knee injury.

"We were planning on playing him significant minutes (the rest of the season)," Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel earlier in the day. "It's a setback to him. It's not the first. There will be a lot of ups and downs. But he'll be able to recover, I'm sure, and get ready for the Summer Olympics."

Milwaukee missed 10 of its first 12 shots to open the game but kept it close in the second quarter by going on an 8-0 run with fewer than three minutes left in the half, pulling within 51-46 after the Pacers led by as many as 13.

They kept the Bucks at bay, rebuilding their lead to 11 points in the third quarter before the Bucks got as close as three points on three different occasions in the quarter.

"It's a team concept," Krystkowiak said of the Pacers' defense. "They load up on penetration. I saw more charges probably in the game tonight than I've seen all season. We had at least a half-dozen charges.

"They do a nice job of packing the paint on Andrew, so you have a hard time doing a whole lot inside, and you get a little bit teased to shoot perimeter jump shots, which is the rut that we got in in the first half."

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