On a night that featured Milwaukee and Indiana as the only NBA matchup, Ersan Ilyasova wasn't going to let the NCAA Tournament outshine him.
A season-best performance for the 6-foot-10 man from Turkey began early, as Ilyasova scored 12 straight points for the Bucks on five consecutive shots. Ilyasova scored a career-high 17 when the first quarter concluded after connecting on 7 of his first 8 shots from the floor.
"He was cookin'." Head coach Jason Kidd said in his post-game press conference. "He was aggressive. He took open shots. He just didn't settle. He also put the ball on the floor. Everything he shot pretty much went in."
"Sometimes you have days like this." Ilyasova said. "You have to stay on it. We shot the ball really well, we found all the guys open. We just penetrated, and they collapsed and then we found the open guy.
Milwaukee as a team shot 73.7 percent to end the first and ended the quarter on a 20-6 charge that was led by the veteran.
But Indiana ended up responding to Milwaukee's 34-15 hole by capping an 11-0 run in the second. C.J. Miles dueled with Ilyasova by scoring 15 in the second, which included back-to-back triples and three total makes from behind the arc during the period.
"Well we’ve been in this position before." Kidd said. "We’ve had big leads, we’ve lost leads and we’ve kept fighting to find ways to get back the lead."
Ilyasova came back into the lineup only to knock down another jumper, followed by another shot from three. After a fast-break dish to Michael Carter-Williams that gave the Bucks seven straight points, Milwaukee ended up regaining control as they led Indy by 12 at the break.
Miles added nine more in a bizarre third quarter that included 21 fouls called by referees Scott Wall and Marat Kogut, and the Pacers ultimately cut the deficit to just two with under six minutes remaining. After scoring 12 points in the fourth last night in Washington, George Hill carried the Pacers again, scoring 15 for Indiana in the final quarter on 4-of-6 shooting. Indiana made 14 of 16 shots from the line in the fourth as the teams racked up 62 total fouls, just eclipsing the 60 the teams totaled the last time they met in Indiana.
After Indiana intentionally fouled a driving Giannis with the Bucks up 109-107, The Greak Freak went just 1-for-2 at the charity stripe that left 13.3 seconds left on the clock and the Pacers another shot to possibly tie. Unfortunately for Indy, Hill's shot from three rimmed out after he dribbled under the rim and went back behind the line as the Bucks held on.
"It was really great to build a lead," Ilyasova said, "but obviously we have to finish. We have too many games like this."
Ilyasova's 34 points came on an efficient 12-for-14 shooting (86 percent) on top of him grabbing six rebounds for the Bucks. Hill finished with 24, while Miles led the Pacers with 26 points.
To conclude a four-game home stand, the Bucks will finish things out on Saturday against the Golden State Warriors, a team they hung with in the Bay Area on March 4. Ilyasova and the Bucks will look to change the results this time around.
"We are trying to defend ourselves right now in the playoff run," Ilyasova said, "especially these last two games. They’re huge wins for us, and we have to build on it moving forward. Golden State’s playing at a high level, and when we played against them it was really close, but we couldn't close the door. Hopefully next game we try to win."