The Bucks are still a young team that plays the style of basketball preferred by their opponent. Against the Rockets, that meant a carefree game with little defense, lots of fastbreaks, and tons of fun plays. Against the Pacers, that meant a slowed down, ugly game dictated by quality possessions. Even though they were forced to play a style of basketball not particularly befitting their skills, the Bucks had a chance at the end, but fell to the Pacers 104-99.
"It was kind of a slugfest game; Indiana is a team that's going to make you play one way and they'll make you pay if you make shots or take care of the ball," coach Jason Kidd said after the game. "In the first half, we didn't do either. We didn't make shots, we didn't play defense. We woke up in the fourth quarter and made a game of it."
The first half was every bit as ugly for the Bucks as one would imagine with just 39 points in the first two periods. The Bucks shot a respectable 44 percent, but an abhorrent 1-for-8 from the three point line with spot-up specialist Jerryd Bayless missing all five of his three point attempts. They also turned the ball over nine times in the first half, which helped the Pacers take a 49-39 lead into the half.
The third quarter started off poorly for the Bucks as they weren't able to get much of anything going, eventually trailing 63-44 midway through the quarter. After that, the Bucks were able to force a few turnovers that led to a few easy baskets for Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo and helped fuel a two and a half minute 12-0 run that helped get them back into the game. The teams traded baskets late with the Bucks once again trailing by ten.
Throughout the fourth quarter, the Bucks cut the deficit to six just to have the Pacers push their lead back out to double digits and it appeared as though the Pacers had fought off the Bucks for the final time with an 11-point lead with 1:36 remaining. That would not be the case though as the Bucks were able to sandwich a stop between a pair of Bayless free throws and a floater from Giannis, which cut the Pacers' lead to seven. Khris Middleton followed that up with a steal and dunk that cut the score to 99-94 with 53.8 seconds left and forced Pacers coach Frank Vogel to call a timeout.
Again, though, it looked like Pacers would finish it off with Monta Ellis hitting a free throw and a tough shot to push their lead back back to six with 24.7 seconds remaining, but Bayless answered with a three point play on a tough layup of his own to cut the Pacers lead to 102-99. Despite trying to stay away from fouling, Antetokounmpo fouled Paul George, who went to the line and missed both free throws, which gave the Bucks a chance to tie with 13 seconds left.
The Bucks tried to get Middleton open for a three in the left corner, but the Pacers covered him well and forced a miss that they rebounded with 5.9 seconds left. Solomon Hill hit both free throws to seal a 105-99 Pacers victory.
Despite the loss, Antetokounmpo and Parker had nights that probably would have excited Bucks fans about a month ago. The Bucks didn't get a chance to run much against the Pacers and their halfcourt offense bogged down a bit, but Antetokounmpo was still able to put up 22 points, six rebounds, and three assists in 41 minutes. Parker was also solid with 18 points and four rebounds. Middleton had one of those nights where he was still able to put up 23 points, despite just 7-of-19 shooting.
The Bucks will be back in action in Milwaukee on Friday night against the Timberwolves. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST.
- Jabari scored eight of his 18 in the third quarter.
- On Monday, Jerryd Bayless was money from three (5-for-8). Tonight he was the opposite: 0-for-5.
- O.J. Mayo hasn't been scoring the ball well since returning from his hamstring injury. He has recorded just one double-digit scoring output (12) and has shot 15-for-41 over his last nine games (36 percent).
- Greg Monroe added 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter.
- The Bucks only made three shots from deep against the Pacers, their third-lowest mark of the season. It was the 10th time this season they hit that many threes in a game.
- Seven players finished in double-figures for the Pacers tonight. Jordan Hill led them with 19 points off the bench. It was only the second time this season the Pacers had seven players score in double-figures.
- Antetokounmpo was perfect at the free-throw line tonight, going 8-for-8. He has attempted five or more free-throw shots 27 times this season and has gone perfect in four of those games. The eight tonight tied a career-high for most made in a game without a miss.
- Before the game, I asked Jason Kidd about Antetokounmpo's struggles from the free throw line in the second half (prior to tonight, just 53%), his change in free throw routine, and why the routine was changed and he responded by saying, "The league. (Pause) That's as simple as it gets. When the league makes a call, you have to make the adjustment or you're going to get embarrassed, so he made the adjustment."
- Early in the game, the Bucks repeatedly put Antetokounmpo and Parker into pick and rolls with Plumlee in the middle of the floor. The results were mixed, but the fact that they featured it so heavily is a major development.
- Strangely enough, they entered into those pick and rolls through their normal elbow/corner series, explained in this video. Instead of bringing the guy from the corner to the ball, the corner guy just cut baseline and the elbow guy (Giannis/Jabari) pivoted into a pick and roll with Plumlee.
- The Bucks halfcourt offense with Point Giannis isn't really any better than it has been throughout this season. I'm sure people will enjoy it more because Antetokounmpo and Parker are more heavily involved, but I don't think it's any more effective than previous versions of the Bucks offense.
- Parker has made a major change when catching the ball in half court situations. Earlier this year, I commented on how he always tried to be on the move when catching the ball on the perimeter. Now, he is often trying to catch with a 1-2 step to set up his jump shot.
- Throughout this season, the Bucks have struggled with their spacing and pacing in transition. I'm not sure the spacing is much better, but the pacing seems to have improved as there seems to be more occurrences of two waves of cutters. The first group that makes the first strong cut and then the second group that tends to cut behind the ballhandler with both shooters (think Bayless) and cutters (think Parker) cutting behind Antetokounmpo near the free throw line.
- To start the fourth quarter, the Bucks had Antetokounmpo pass the ball to the right wing and immediately cut down the lane to set a cross-screen to get Monroe to the right block. He would clear out after the screen and let Monroe go to work. Monroe quickly rattled off 10 points to open the quarter. After a Pacers timeout, the Bucks ran the exact same play, except Antetokounmpo flashed to the basketball immediately after screening. Mayo delivered an on-target pass and Antetokounmpo was fouled. Great counter.
- This is the second straight game Kidd chose to close the game with Greg Monroe on the bench.
- The Bucks have had some good times with THE PLAY. Like the season opener last year. And this Mayo gamewinner. And from my Twitter feed. But the whole league has it scouted at this point and it won't be effective for another year or so.