The reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks carry a six-game winning streak into Indianapolis for a Sunday matchup with the Indiana Pacers.
Milwaukee sputtered to a 6-8 start, enduring three separate stretches with consecutive losses, before beginning its current winning run Nov. 17.
The Buckspushed the streak to six games Friday with a 120-109 victory over the shorthanded Denver Nuggets. While 2020-21 MVP Nikola Jokic sat out for the Nuggets with a wrist injury, Giannis Antetokounmpo -- winner of the MVP award the two previous seasons -- led Milwaukee with 24 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Jrue Holiday played what Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer called his "best overall game" this season.
"His command of the game, doing things when we needed it (from) the end of the first quarter," Budenholzer said, "(He) had some really big plays to close out, too."
Said Holiday: "I felt like I had a lot of good shots. I didn't really force much. It was a good game."
Holiday is on a three-game stretch with 18, 22 and 16 points. He has 16 total assists over that stretch and grabbed 19 rebounds.
Holiday missed six games early in the season with a heel contusion, including the Bucks' first matchup with Indiana on Oct. 25. Despite Holiday's absence, Milwaukee won 119-109 behind a near-triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists from Antetokounmpo.
The meeting with the Pacers was the second of seven 30-point-plus games for the two-time MVP thus far in 2021-22. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.1 points a game, setting the pace for a balanced Bucks offense with six players scoring at least 12.1 per game.
However, Milwaukee is more than 10 points per game off of its NBA-leading scoring average of a season ago. The Bucks are playing without two of its double-digit scorers from last season, as Brook Lopez has missed all but one game due to a back injury, and Donte DiVincenzo has yet to debut as a result of a foot injury sustained last season.
Indiana is looking for its fourth win in five games. The Pacers rebounded from an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday by beating the Toronto Raptors on Friday, 114-97.
In their three wins over the last four games, the Pacers limited New Orleans, Chicago and Toronto to 94, 77 and 97 points, respectively.
Indiana complemented its tough defensive play on Friday with balanced offense. Seven Pacers scored in double-figures, including three off the bench: Kelan Martin with 15 points, Chris Duarte with 12 and Torrey Craig with 11.
Caris LeVert scored 19 points, his most since returning to the lineup on Nov. 13. Domantas Sabonis led the way with 23 points, and with 18 rebounds in his 15th double-double of the season.
"We have so many guys. We have a lot of talent, a lot of guys can score," Sabonis said. "If we share the ball, everyone is going to make the right decision."
Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. McConnell had 12 and seven assists as part of the 31 team assists on 47 made field goals Indiana scored. The Pacers rank in the NBA's top 10 for assists this season with 23.8 per game.
--Field Level Media