MILWAUKEE--Milwaukee Bucks coach Larry Drew wanted his team to understand it had to be more physical after being pushed around Thursday night by the Denver Nuggets.
And one of the newest members of the Bucks clearly got the message.
Forward Jeff Adrien, acquired in a trade-deadline deal with Charlotte on Thursday, showed passion and a physical style the Bucks desperately need as they faced the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers.
It didn't pay off in a victory, but the Bucks fought back from a 22-point deficit before finally falling, 110-100, in front of a season-best crowd of 17,165 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Saturday night.
"The coaching staff did a pretty good job getting (Ramon) Sessions and me used to the plays, used to the offense," Adrien said.
"That was good energy. I was a little anxious to get out here, in a good way. My nap wasn't as long as usual. Maybe I should keep the same routine."
Adrien grabbed 11 rebounds in 18 minutes and didn't back down when faced with the muscular Pacers duo of center Roy Hibbert and power forward David West.
"That's what I bring to the table," Adrien said. "I try to bring it day in and day out. Practice, games, whatever it is. I just try to get my teammates to match my physicality, my energy.
"We did that a lot today. We just fell short."
Brandon Knight led the Bucks (10-45) with 30 points and added eight assists. He scored five points to spark an 11-2 Milwaukee run at the start of the third quarter that brought the Bucks within 53-50.
And later in the quarter they got within two points, marking a strong comeback from a 44-22 deficit midway through the second quarter.
But every time the Bucks would make a move, the Pacers (42-13) would answer.
West exploited a matchup against Ersan Ilyasova in the post, forcing the Bucks to change defenses, and Lance Stephenson was a hard man to control.
West matched his season high with 30 points while Stephenson was close to a triple-double with 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Stephenson already leads the league with four triple-doubles.
"He (West) kept delivering, so obviously we kept going to him," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Then when they doubled we made them pay from the three-point line.
"He was pretty special tonight, and Paul was Paul and Lance took advantage of their two point-guard lineup with a really strong line."
But the Bucks were strong on the boards as Zaza Pachulia contributed nine rebounds and John Henson eight.
Knight said he believes the trade to acquire Adrien and Sessions will benefit the Bucks.
"We need a guy like Jeff Adrien because he's going to play hard the entire game," Knight said. "He's going to get down there and be tough and physical, and we need that element of the game.
"Sessions does a great job just running the team. A lot of experience, a lot of time playing the game, and a guy that can get in the paint at any time."
Sessions wound up with seven points and three rebounds in 23 minutes.
The 6-foot-7 Adrien played sparingly with Charlotte this season but impressed Drew when he played against the Bucks.
"Jeff is a banger," Drew said. "He's a guy who is not afraid to go in there and do dirty work. He took a charge tonight.
"But he brought a physical presence. He didn't back down, not one bit, from any of those guys out there. And that's who he is.
"You're not going to intimidate this kid. He will stand toe-to-toe. And I told him, 'I don't care if you foul out. Anything to that basket I want you to be physical and be who you are.'"
Adrien picked up five fouls but there were plenty of whistles as the teams combined to shoot 72 free throws.
Stephenson had 15 points in the fourth quarter on 5-of-7 shooting and West added 10 points as Indiana outscored Milwaukee, 35-32, in the period.
"We just had breakdown after breakdown, right when I thought the game was within striking distance," Drew said.
"You play against a team like Indiana, they will make you pay for those type of mistakes."
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