Chris Copeland made sure to take advantage.
Copeland scored a season-high 18 points and made a difficult driving layup with 1.2 seconds remaining, giving the Pacers a hard-fought 104-102 that moved them back into first place in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s big for our confidence, the second unit,” said Copeland, who came in averaging three points. “Just to get the opportunity out there. A lot of us have been waiting for that all year. So it was very cool for us to get out there and get a win and show the starters that we’ve got their backs when they need rest.”
Copeland also tied a career high with four 3-pointers and matched a season high with 17 minutes of playing time.
“I tried to rip through to the basket and tried to use my size,” Copeland said. “I saw help coming, so I shot it.”
Copeland’s shot came after Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton had tied the game at 102 after making three free throws. Middleton drew a foul while attempting a shot near the 3-point arc with 4.9 seconds remaining that referees initially ruled a 2-point attempt. After a review, the call was reversed, sending Middleton to the line for three shots.
Vogel made the unusual move to keep all of his regular first-team players on the bench after saying his team appeared tired following a 107-88 home loss to Atlanta on Sunday, when the Pacers were held to a franchise-low 23 points in the first half.
“It was a great win for our guys, a great team effort,” Vogel said. “We had a lot of good contributors.”
Even without the starters, Indiana moved a half-game ahead of the Heat heading into Friday’s matchup in Miami.
After leading the East most of the season, the Pacers had lost five of six games coming into the matchup with the Bucks. Still, the Pacers came in just a half-game behind Miami, which lost at Memphis.
The Bucks, who had only eight players available due to injuries, have lost six in a row and were on the losing end of all four games with the Pacers this season. Brandon Knight had 25 points and Ramon Sessions 20 for Milwaukee. Jeff Adrien pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds.
The game featured 23 lead changes.