NBA.com Daily Confidential

Indiana Pacers star Jermaine O'Neal has added a new dimension to his game and the Milwaukee Bucks have noticed.

O'Neal will look to lead the Pacers (5-5) to a sweep of a home-and-home series against the Bucks (3-7) on Tuesday at Conseco Fieldhouse.

The power forward had 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks as Indiana ended a three-game slide by coming back from a 15-point deficit to win 102-100 at Milwaukee on Saturday.

``He was the star of the game without question,'' Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. ``It was a dominant performance in the second night of a back-to-back.''

The part of O'Neal's night that caught the Bucks' attention was the eight blocks. O'Neal is averaging a career-high 3.7 blocks after never posting more than 2.8 in a season.

``You could really tell that's one of his focuses this year,'' Bucks guard Mo Williams said. ``Somebody told him he really needs to block some shots and he's really down there being a man in the middle.

``He definitely is. He's blocking some shots - blocked eight today - and he's definitely been a force for them down there.''

Carlisle has favored a smaller lineup at times with O'Neal, Al Harrington and Danny Granger comprising the frontcourt, and it's caused O'Neal to focus more on his defense.

``There were moments where the game could have tipped one way or the other, and two or three of his blocks tipped it back in our favor,'' Carlisle said.

The Pacers are hoping to have Harrington back in the lineup after he missed Saturday's game with a back injury suffered in Friday's loss to New Jersey. Harrington leads the team with 19.2 points per game.

Carlisle made a lineup change to his backcourt Saturday, starting Marquis Daniels at shooting guard over Stephen Jackson. Daniels scored just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.

Jackson, meanwhile, responded with 17 points - his highest total since the season opener at Charlotte on Nov. 1 - in his first game off the bench. He's shooting just 34.2 percent from the field this season.

Bucks sharpshooter Michael Redd scored a game-high 21 points in Saturday's loss, his lowest total since Nov. 3. Redd is averaging 27.5 points on the road compared to 34.5 at home.

The Bucks had a chance to win Saturday, but rookie Ersan Ilyasova passed up an open shot. Ilyasova made 5-of-6 shots for a season-high 12 points in his first start.

Coach Terry Stotts indicated that Ilyasova would continue to replace Brian Skinner in the starting lineup.

``I thought Ersan had played well in Atlanta and New Jersey,'' Stotts said. ``I like his ability to space the floor. He was probably one of our better defenders in the second half.

``He's very active, very alert to every possession and he and Ruben (Patterson) would complement each other at 3 and 4. So that's what went into it.''

The Bucks have dropped 24 of 32 visits to Indiana since the 1991-92 season.


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