Box Score / AP Recap / JS Recap
Well, maybe it was kind of fitting. In a season that peaked midway through and ended with an injury-plagued thud, it kind of makes sense the Bucks would finish the season with a roller-coaster loss in Indianapolis that featured a 20-0 Bucks run in the third and a fourth quarter lead of 17.
After a high-scoring but fairly ho-hum first half that saw the Pacers leading by seven at the half, the Bucks jumped all over the Pacers in the third quarter, pasting them 39-16. Richard Jefferson was feeling it with 28 points through three quarters while Luc Mbah a Moute was doing everything en route to an excellent 19/11 night. Meanwhile, the Pacers were giving it away cheaply and helping the Bucks get out in transition, while getting away from their bread and butter--letting Danny Granger go to work.
And then...well, maybe the Bucks were worried about sending the Pacer fans home happy. Indiana completely turned the tables in the fourth, exploding for 43 points and overcoming a 95-78 deficit with 8:37 remaining. Rookie Brandon Rush kept up his torrid finish to the season by kickstarting the comeback, taking it to Joe Alexander with seven points in a 17-2 run that also saw Granger bury a couple threes. Overall, the physical balance of power notably shifted, as the Pacers blocked three shots and grabbed six offensive boards in the final six minutes. I wouldn't say the Bucks gave up, but they were clearly a step slow and unable to counter the Pacers' energy and aggressiveness--just like the Pacers one quarter previous.
While Granger had watched RJ bury shots in his grill in the third, it was his time in the fourth and he ripped off 16 points (four threes) in the period to finish with 35, nine boards and four dimes. Rush nearly matched him with 15 in the quarter, as every time the Bucks got a bucket to stay close either Rush or Granger was there to launch another dagger. With Mike Dunleavy returning next season it's tough not to like the Pacers' glut of wing studs.
Jefferson finished off his best (half) month of the season with 31 (13/20 fg) but scored just three in the final quarter. Mbah a Moute meanwhile had a slow start, missing a few open jumpers and a dunk on his way to a 1/5 first half. But the Pacers looked flat-footed in the third as he hustled his way to 12 points in the period on 5/6 fg. Charlie Bell was the Bucks' other highlight, scoring 16 along with six boards and six dimes.
The loss means the Bucks finish 34-48, eight games better than a season ago but still five games behind the 8th seeded Pistons (how awesome is that Iverson trade looking?). They currently sit tied for 10th in the lottery standings with the Nets, so each team will get nine out of the 1000 lottery combinations and a coin flip will determine who gets a 10th. More importantly, whoever wins the coin flip will pick ahead of the other assuming neither team moves up into the lottery.
Welcome to the offseason.