On Wednesday night, Giannis Antetokounmpo was ejected from the Milwaukee Bucks’ game against the Pistons after earning a controversial second technical foul. On Thursday, he unleashed a vengeance of biblical proportions, and the Pacers were the ill-fated morsels in his path. He scored 54 points on pretty insane efficiency (19-for-25 from the field).
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. The Pacers narrowly escaped with a 126-124 victory.
For the first eight-or-so minutes of the game, it was all Indiana. Myles Turner and Bennedict Mathurin each knocked down a pair of early threes, and the Pacers jumped out to a jaw-dropping 27-9 lead. Off of a needed timeout, the Bucks got comfortable. Giannis scored six straight points when the Bucks desperately needed it, and Pat Connaughton knocked down a late three to end the first quarter down 38-24. In the second quarter, the Bucks really found their groove. Giannis and MarJon Beauchamp produced early buckets, and Khris Middleton went on a mini-scoring run of his own. Unfortunately, it seemed like Turner and Tyrese Haliburton had an offensive response ready whenever Indiana needed it to keep a comfortable distance. The Bucks brought it within two, but the Pacers ended the half with a 6-2 run to take a 66-60 lead into intermission.
In the third quarter, it looked like the Bucks were going to run away with it. Giannis really turned it up a notch, scoring 20 points in the third quarter alone to give the Bucks a one-point lead heading into the final stanza. Milwaukee picked right back up heading into the fourth, and a Malik Beasley 3-pointer gave the Bucks a 104-96 lead, which felt comfortable at the time. Milwaukee’s scoring continued, but it quickly became apparent that Haliburton, Mathurin, and Andrew Nembhard were capable of tightening the gap the second the state of Wisconsin found space to exhale.
With two minutes on the clock, the score was knotted at 119. Cameron Payne found the hoop to give the Bucks the lead, but Haliburton replied with a 3-ball to give the Pacers their first lead in forever. The teams traded possessions, and the Bucks had one final gasp to try and find a bucket. Giannis, who was evidently exhausted, threw a reallyyyy rough pass that resulted in a turnover. The Pacers took care of business at the line, Middleton missed a tying three, and that was all she wrote.
Stat That Stood Out
I already gave Giannis his flowers in the intro, so I’m going to be a little bit critical in this section, given the fact that the Bucks lost. This defense is unacceptable. Losing Jrue Holiday was going to lead to some defensive growing pains; I get that. But Lord have mercy. My heart rate cannot handle an instant classic every other night. Going into tonight, the Bucks ranked 25th in defensive rating (115.8). They have allowed an average of nearly 128 points per game in their three losses. Giannis is an offensive treasure, and Dame is not far behind him. But this team will never reach its ceiling if it can’t figure out the defense, and there will just be more Greek Freak masterclasses that turn out like this.