The Bucks made huge runs in the first and third quarters. They handled the Pacers' attempts to come back in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter and an easy victory seemed like a certainty with a Pacers team that would surely be tired out from their overtime loss to the Bulls on Wednesday night.
That was not the case. The Pacers pulled out a full court press and the Bucks could not stop turning the ball over. Eventually, though, they missed a few shots and the Bucks were able to pull out a 120-116 victory.
Things started out well as the Bucks forced turnovers and raced out to a 13-8 lead. Despite a timeout from Pacers coach Frank Vogel, Milwaukee was able to keep the pressure up and eventually took a 33-24 lead into the second quarter, where things got very interesting.
The Bucks' bench has struggled for much of this season and the coaching staff has tried a few things to remedy the situation, most notably regularly staggering Giannis Antetokounmpo with four bench players. Against the Pacers, the Bucks went a step further and played Greg Monroe with the second unit and the strategy was relatively successful. Despite some youthful (read: ugly) mistakes from Rashad Vaughn, the Bucks lineup of Jerryd Bayless, O.J. Mayo, Vaughn, Antetokounmpo, and Monroe was only a -2 in their time together in the second quarter (and would later be +2 at the start of the fourth quarter with Michael Carter-Williams replacing Vaughn.) After the new staggering experiment, the two teams were even for the rest of the quarter and the Bucks took a 59-52 lead into the second half.
The Pacers started the second half with a 11-2 run and briefly took a 63-61 lead before the Bucks rattled off a 20-6 run to force Vogel to again take a run-ending timeout with the Bucks leading 81-69 with 3:50 left in the third quarter. Khris Middleton supplied ten of the Bucks' 20 points during the run.
The Bucks continued to play well throughout the third and fourth quarter and eventually led the Pacers by 16 with 4:41 left. Instead of finishing up the final few minutes and allowing both teams to clear their benches, the Bucks did everything they could to allow the Pacers get back in the game. A turnover and technical from Middleton. Turnovers from Bayless and Carter-Williams. Missed free throws by Antetokounmpo and Carter-Williams. Two shots blocked. An eight second violation. Missed layups. Missed shots. Despite getting the deficit to just three (117-114) and creating two open looks at a three that could tie the game, the Pacers weren't able to come all the way back and the Bucks pulled out a 120-116 victory.
For a second straight game, Middleton was magnificent. He recorded a new career-high of 36 points against the Thunder and almost matched it against the Pacers with 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the field and four-of-six shooting from the three point line. The new subbing pattern seemed to help Monroe as he scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half. The rest of the Bucks' starters also found their way into double figures for the game with Jabari Parker notably scoring over 10 points for the first time in over a week.
The Bucks have a play off before traveling to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST.
- Teams continue to close out Carter-Williams at the three point line in the first quarter of games and it remains extremely confusing.
- I know that the Bucks do a lot of switching on defense, but it was strange to see Parker matchup against Paul George so often in deadball situations throughout the game. The thought process might have been that they could possibly get Parker switched off of George, instead of ending possessions with Parker switched on to George. Nonetheless, it just seemed strange.
- In the November 23rd Pistons-Bucks game, Greg Monroe played the entire second and third quarter. While playing with the second unit in the second quarter, Monroe feasted on Aron Baynes, which helped him have a huge game. After the game, I asked coach Jason Kidd if that would be a new staggering pattern that they were trying and he dismissed the idea and offered Henson's poor play as a reason for the different subbing pattern. It will be very interesting to see if this staggering pattern gets used more often with the success it had tonight.
- There are going to be a lot of people that get excited about the Bucks playing at a faster pace after this Pacers game, but I remain unconvinced that Bucks actually made playing at a faster pace a priority. The Pacers turned the ball over 20 times and the Bucks scored 35 points off those turnovers. Many of the turnovers were live ball turnovers and those will always lead to an increased pace.
- In the last five games, Khris Middleton has averaged 25 points, 3.8 rebounds, and five assists per game on 61.3 percent field goal and 60.7 percent three point shooting. He has been fantastic lately and yet, I'm annoyed...by the comments I see about his play. Along with the compliments, there is a bevy of "It's about time" and "0-for-5 coming tomorrow" comments. Khris Middleton is a very good basketball player and a lot of people refuse to recognize it because they don't feel like looking at his play, but rather his contract.
- Proposed Resolution(s): The Bucks may end up being a bad basketball team this year, but that doesn't mean we need to be bad basketball commenters. I propose that we all try to be better about not being so combative in the comments section and doing a better job promoting the wonderful community that can be fostered through the thoughtful discussion of basketball. Happy New Year, y'all!