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Milwaukee vs. Indiana: A Hard-fought Comeback Comes Up Short

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The Bucks battled back from a 25-point deficit, but couldn’t overcome the Pacers late

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

While Giannis Antetokounmpo was tending to his son, the Milwaukee Bucks were playing a sloppy set of basketball before the All-Star Break as the Indiana Pacers handed them their eighth loss of the year, 118-111. The Bucks offense looked putrid the entire first period, while the Pacers shot 15-21 (71.4%) to take a significant 34-20 lead. Thankfully, the second period was only slightly less eye-gouging to watch than the first, but the Bucks strolled into halftime down 68-45. The Bucks offense still looked messy in the third, but their triples finally started falling as they got to within 82-71 by the fourth. Despite chipping away to get the game down to single digits for a stretch, the Pacers were able to claw their way to snapping a six-game losing streak and sending the Bucks into the break with a loss.

Three Pointers

Burn the First Half Tapes

The Milwaukee Bucks, even without Giannis, really have no excuse for just how horrific their first half performance was. They let the Pacers, the epitome of league average offensively, drub them in whatever way they pleased. With nearly twice as many paint points through two (32-18) and a 63.4% shooting percentage overall, Bud had to be fuming at halftime. While the Bucks made it a game with their third period performance, this was certainly the sloppiest game I can recall that they played all year between their 17 turnovers and sieve-like defense in the first half.

A Slow Burning Khris

It wasn’t pretty for Khris Middleton in the first half, particularly as T.J. Warren played solid defense on him the entire evening, but he finally started to find his groove in the second half. His myriad midrange moves and drives to the tin weren’t always successful, but a couple of his deep looks fell including one to close out the third. He was never able to get himself comfortable though, and numerous times he had the ball stripped as he tried to dribble around the perimeter. He had four turnovers for the game.

The Unrestricted Restricted Area

Milwaukee’s bread and butter all year has been their suffocating defense at the rim. Even without Giannis Antetokounmpo, they still have more than enough length inside and defensive discipline to continue that trend, albeit perhaps not to the same degree. It was entirely missing in this game, as the Pacers shot 71.4% (20-28!) at the rim per Cleaning The Glass. That’s well off the Bucks’ season-long rate of allowing just 54.2%. If you want any primary reason why Milwaukee lost this game, this is it. I know Giannis wasn’t playing, but if you think Bud won’t be a little more tiffed than he originally hoped while sipping his mai tai this weekend, you’re sorely mistaken.

Bonus Bucks Bits

One of the things I appreciate about Bud is his liberal nature with his timeouts. Even in blowouts, he’s willing to call his team over for a huddle if something rubs him the wrong way. He didn’t wait long to signal for one against Indiana, calling his first in less than two minutes after the Pacers got a steal and a run-out lay-in. He did his mentor proud with that one. He needed three by the time the first half was finished.

Marvin Williams made his first appearance as a Buck in the first quarter, checking in right around the 7:00 minute mark. He finally nailed his first bucket with a layup in the latter stages of the first.

*Not Great Bob Gif*

Bud was clearly unhappy with the play of his usual Teacher’s Pet, Ersan Ilyasova. Heading into a first quarter timeout, he gave him the business on his way to the bench, and then sent him packing to the bench to start the second half, subbing in Pat Connaughton for him.

*NOT GREAT BOB Gif*

Finally, Pat Connaughton broke the above streak with a triple midway through the third.

Those of us who were still watching shall never forget the time Donte DiVincenzo got a steal during a Pacers 4-2 fast break.

Major credit to Sterling Brown for keeping his head in the game after some rough misses at the rim in the first half. He continues to look like he’s never passed out of a drive before, but he buckled down defensively, dug like a fiend on drivers, snagged offensive rebounds and started finding cutting lanes to get easier buckets. Given the year he’s had going on and off the bench, it’s a testament to his mental fortitude he could competently contribute to make this a ballgame. He ended with 14 points and eight boards.

After some hand-wringing down the stretch, our precious 100-point streak for the Milwaukee Bucks narrowly continued thanks to the wonderful exploits of Ersan Ilyasova and Donte DiVincenzo in garbage time.

I usually groan uncontrollably at broadcast shtick like ESPN’s crossover broadcasts, but I thought this one was actually relatively enjoyable. Adam Schefter as sideline reporter I can take or leave, but LaPhonso Ellis, who was the third member of Doris Burke and Mark Jones broadcast team, was a pretty pleasing one-time addition. Certainly his playing experience led to an overabundance of rather silly questions about his NBA time, but he fit in well and had some interesting insight on several plays. My standout was discussing how Sabonis didn’t meet Bledsoe high enough coming off a pick and let Eric whirl around him rather than cutting off his driving angle. Solid enough for a gimmick.