The Milwaukee Bucks had the shot they wanted, in the hands of the guy they wanted to take it.
It just didn't go in.
After watching Khris Middleton torch the Magic for 30 last night, no one would have complained with the ball in the hands of the Bucks' resident sharpshooter at the end of a tie game. But Middleton's miss (on a rather good look) followed by an ice cold overtime put to waste what was really a rather winnable road game in Indiana on Thursday night, allowing the Roy Hibbert-less Pacers to come away with their seventh straight win and move within 3.5 games of the Bucks in the
race slow trot for the East's sixth seed.
Star sixth man Rodney Stuckey followed up his 34-point game against the Magic on Tuesday with 25 points, six boards and six assists to lead Indiana, countering Michael Carter-Williams' team-high 28 points (8/20 fg, 12/15 fg), eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. Indiana's defense (and perhaps a bit of fatigue) held the Bucks to just 39% shooting overall, with Middleton (6/21 shooting including 3/16 from two) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (4/14 fg, 12 pts, 6 rebs, 3 ast) leading the Bucks' bricklaying efforts. That left MCW more of a scoring burden than anyone would have wanted, though his attacking of the paint combined with A+ efforts from Ersan Ilyasova (19 pts, 10 rebs) and Zaza Pachulia (16 pts, 12 rebs, 8 offensive) helped the Bucks stay in the game longer than they might otherwise have deserved.
After blasting away to a 31-19 lead after one quarter, the Pacers bogged the Bucks' offense down in the middle quarters before a big fourth quarter from Ilyasova helped the Bucks scrape their way back into it. Milwaukee trailed 86-76 early in the fourth, but back-to-back finishes from Giannis kickstarted a comeback that featured Ilyasova scoring the final five points of regulation to tie it. The Bucks then took the lead in OT after Pachulia's tireless work on the offensive boards drew a flagrant foul from Ian Mahinmi, but Indy responded with a 9-0 run and never looked back.
-- A whopping 60 combined fouls assured that neither team ever got in much of a rhythm offensively, with the Bucks winding up 29/36 from the stripe and Indy 22/28.
-- Though their transition game never really took off, the Bucks were able to get Giannis the ball in pretty good post position throughout the night, which made his poor shooting line all the more disappointing. He had one rushed long two-pointer and an almost apologetic-looking corner three attempt in overtime, but otherwise he had a ton of looks in the paint that he simply couldn't cash in on. He also looked to have been hit on at least a couple of them, but generally you'd say he didn't make the most of his chances against smaller Indy defenders.
Giannis' other issue was foul trouble, which probably didn't do much to hep his rhythm even if he still racked up 35 minutes in all. He had two fouls late in the first, a third foul before halftime, and a fourth foul midway through the third. Totaling just one turnover was more encouraging, though it's worth noting that he could have been whistled for a charge on Damjan Rudez early in the fourth, instead converting it for a key three-point play that helped the Bucks get back into the game.
-- The Bucks' bench problems continue. With Jerryd Bayless out for a second straight game and O.J. Mayo resting his sore hamstring on the second night of a back-to-back, the Pacers' reserves outscored their Bucks' counterparts 52-10. Aside from some solid minutes form Tyler Ennis (6 points, 4 ast, 3 rebs in 15 min) and a quick and unoffensive cameo from Miles Plumlee, the Bucks' bench provided next to nothing and left Kidd with little option but to play his starters big minutes for the second time in as many nights. Among the lowlights: Jared Dudley took one shot (a miss) in 18 minutes and was a game-worst -21, while John Henson had more technical fouls than shot attempts (1-0) in 12 minutes.