At T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the Milwaukee Bucks saw their In-Season Tournament run come to an end with a 128-119 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Brook Lopez kicked off the offensive for the Bucks with a pair of threes, and Giannis Antetokounmpo added his own firepower from inside. The Pacers kept up, but Khris Middleton knocked down a 3-ball to extend the Bucks’ lead to seven. From there, Myles Turner and Bruce Brown anchored a brief scoring run, but field goals from MarJon Beauchamp and free throws from Giannis held the Bucks afloat. Milwaukee held a narrow 29-27 lead after one.
Neither team managed to pull away in the early stages of the second quarter, until Tyrese Haliburton and Obi Toppin connected from long range to give Indiana a 12-point cushion. Giannis and Brook responded, but the Pacers were quick to preserve their lead. Myles hit a three in the closing seconds of the half, and the Bucks faced a 63-51 deficit heading into the locker room.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Bucks looked just about unstoppable on offense in the third quarter. Damian Lillard had 16 points by himself, and Khris and Giannis were hitting dang-near every shot they took. They ended up tallying 43 total points in the period (tying their season high for points in a quarter), and they took a 94-91 lead into the final quarter.
After catching fire in the third quarter, the Bucks came out flat in the fourth. They missed their first three field goal attempts, and it took four free throw attempts for MarJon to finally get Milwaukee on the board with a 1-point contribution. From there, both teams began to lean on inside scoring, exchanging layups and midrange jumpers. With two minutes on the clock, Buddy Hield tipped in a shot to give the Pacers a 5-point lead. Giannis got the Bucks back within three, but Hali converted a layup to bring the lead back to five. After Brook missed a three, Haliburton danced behind the 3-point line and converted a jumper to give the Pacers an insurmountable 8-point lead. The Bucks’ ensuing comeback fell short, and Indiana advanced.
What Did We Learn?
With this loss, the Bucks are now 0-2 against the Pacers this season. I don’t think this is anything to freak out about right now—after all, they lost those two games by a combined 11 points. At the same time, this Indiana offense could definitely give the Bucks some problems down the road, and this is the last team I would want to see in the first round of the playoffs. The Bucks will get a chance at revenge at home on December 13th.
The 3-point magic didn’t last
The Bucks had a truly sensational performance shooting the ball against the Knicks in the quarterfinal, shooting 60.5% from deep. It’s safe to say that performance was an outlier rather than an expectation, because they shot a pedestrian 36.4% from deep against the Pacers. A few noticeable contributors to the dud are Brook Lopez (3-for-10) and Malik Beasley (1-for-4). The entire bench shot a combined 0-for-4.
Tyrese Haliburton is really good at basketball
Tyrese Haliburton is having a phenomenal start to the season, and he has clearly been the biggest thorn for the Bucks in these two matchups. Tonight, he finished with 27 points, 15 assists, and 0 turnovers. He made big plays all night, including hitting the shot that ultimately sealed the game.
Giannis and Dame’s dominance continues
The victors stole the spotlight tonight, but Giannis had another insane performance. He finished with 37 points and 10 rebounds with the scoring efficiency that has become a trademark of his game. Dame was a little bit less efficient, but he still had a solid 24 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds. The league will be in trouble once this duo figures out how to allow under 120 points.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Khris Middleton had his first 20-point game of the season! His input was really valuable, especially with Brook and Malik struggling to find rhythm on offense for most of the night.
- As I mentioned in the Rapid Recap, the Bucks barely used their bench tonight. Andre Jackson Jr. and AJ Green combined for just five minutes on the floor (which surprised me after AJ’s 9-point first quarter against the Knicks the other day). Bobby Portis, Cam Payne, and MarJon got more minutes, but they didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet offensively either. I don’t think the depth will be a huge problem going forward, but it’s hard to imagine the starters weren’t gassed in those crucial final minutes tonight.
- Hats off to Adam Silver; the In-Season Tournament is lots of fun. This game had playoff vibes, and it’s not even Christmas yet! As much as I hated seeing the Bucks lose, it was cool to see a team like Indiana—who hasn’t seen a serious team in quite a while—get a win.