The Milwaukee Bucks seemed in control for the first half, but had to rally from a second half swoon to overtake the Indiana Pacers, 106-97, and cement their status as the league’s best team heading into the All-Star break. It was the “Giannis Antetokounmpo Special” in the first quarter, when he outstripped his output from the entire last Pacers game with 13 points to lead Milwaukee to a 26-18 advantage. The Bucks and Pacers played each other even at 29-all in the second quarter, sending Milwaukee into halftime with a 55-47 lead. Milwaukee went cold in the third, as the Pacers made up plenty of ground to vault ahead 79-76 heading into the fourth. It came down to the wire, but the Bucks went on a scoring spree late to pull this vital victory out.
Giannis clearly took the last Pacers game personally, as he looked like a man on a mission all evening against the defense of Thaddeus Young. On both ends, he looked to deter shots, create his own and make plenty of open looks for teammates en route to one spectacular stat line: 33 points, 19 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and one block. That’s a jumbo-sized triple-double if I’ve ever seen one.
The rest of the starters had a quiet night thanks to the diligent defense of the Pacers, with Malcolm Brogdon as the other high man at 17 points. Khris Middleton had a tough night at the office with just 5-16 shooting, but his 15 points were buttressed by his creation skills at five assists and a clutch triple down the stretch. It wasn’t Eric Bledsoe’s night (just four points in 21 minutes), but Ersan Ilyasova looked spry again in adding 11.
It was a scoring by committee night for the Pacers, who need contributions from across the roster with Victor Oladipo out. Bojan Bogdanovic led all their scorers with 20 points. They had four others in double figures though, with Domantas Sabonis and Darren Collison both chipping in 14. Myles Turner had 11 points and Tyreke Evans had 10.
Stat that Stood Out
11-0. Milwaukee found their way after a slumping night from three and the Pacers walling off the paint in the second half, but it took until the final few minutes to get there. Following Thaddeus Young’s triple with just under five minutes to go that put the Pacers up 95-93, Giannis and co. proceeded on an 11-0 run in the clutch that salted this game away. Giannis attacked the rim plenty, but even more importantly, the Bucks switchy defense in a jumbo lineup kept the Pacers at bay. Extra kudos to Brook Lopez for his dancer’s feet when switched onto guards.