In a disappointing finish, the Milwaukee Bucks were unable to get the job done against the Indiana Pacers, 122-113.
You knew the Bucks would be fired up to start this one off, and that was exactly the case. Fueled by numerous scoring runs, Milwaukee quickly ramped up a double-digit lead thanks to well-balanced scoring. Giannis led the way in the opening frame with ten points, carrying the Bucks to a 32-25 lead after one.
That lead evaporated in the second quarter, as Indiana stuck their foot in the door and kept things quite competitive. They’d gain enough momentum to storm back and take a lead midway through the frame. The Bucks would right the ship though before intermission, owning a 62-56 lead after two.
Tyrese Haliburton’s scoring started to come alive in the third quarter, facilitating the Pacers’ offense. It helped them stay well within reach, as the Bucks’ lead dwindled down to four at 88-84 going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth contest, with each team landing punches on one another. However, a scoring drought did the Bucks in, leaving the door open for Indiana to take advantage — which is exactly what they did. Tyrese Haliburton had no problem sealing the game for the visitors, and the Pacers ended up escaping with a 122-113 win.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks in scoring with a triple-double of 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists. Those 30 points were also a game-high. Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez each contributed with 21 points of their own.
Tyrese Haliburton was the main guy for the Pacers, finishing a rebound shy of a triple-double and 26 points. Bennedict Mathurin was a force off the bench, totaling 25 points on the evening.
It’s a quick turnaround for these two teams, as they’ll meet tomorrow in Indianapolis.
What Did We Learn?
The Pacers’ bench outmatched the Bucks in many ways, including down the stretch in the fourth. As things started out neck-and-neck in the fourth, the tables started slanting in favor of the away squad, thanks in large part to their bench. One player who continues to be a thorn in the Bucks’ side? TJ McConnell. Off the bench, he tallied 16 points, four rebounds, and nine assists. Mathurin was also massive for them, going off for 25. They were really able to make quite the impact all night long, but especially in the fourth.
Damian Lillard struggled to find his groove.
All season long, Lillard seems to just not be able to get things going against Indiana. Tonight, he struggled again, going just 3-of-16 from the floor. Here’s what he had to say regarding his performance last night:
“It’s part of the game. I think that’s the first thing. Sometimes, the ball doesn’t go in. I thought tonight, as somebody who shoots the ball, it felt like they were all going in. They felt good. It wasn’t like the ball felt bad coming out of my hands. Sometimes, it goes that way. I think it’s just an adjustment period for me sometimes. In my career, I’ve played the game with the ball. It’s easier to just have a more natural rhythm to the game. I think now, some nights are just better than others when it comes to shooting the ball and being able to manage the control of the game as opposed to having stretches where I’m just off the ball and I’m shooting catch and shoot shots a lot more often. I think you just, the rhythm is just different to the game, so I think that kind of makes it a little bit harder when you’re not fully used to it. And then, you know, like I said, the other part of it is every shot that I shot, I felt good about it, it just didn’t go in.”
It is unique how the Pacers have been the ones to always stifle Dame, as he’s really struggled against them this season. It’ll be intriguing to see what type of adjustments are made tomorrow in Indianapolis, but for the most part, it does come down to his shot like he said.
Second-chance points hurt the Bucks as well.
In his postgame presser, one of the things that Adrian Griffin talked about was the Bucks’ inability to secure the rebounds. He mentioned the second-chance opportunities that came from them (14 offensive boards for 20+ points) and said those were instances that really hurt the guys. Looking at the box score, Bennedict Mathurin was the leader in that category, coming off the bench with a spark of three offensive boards. Look for Milwaukee to come up with adjustments that eliminate that from repeating in Indy.
Indiana threw many defensive looks at Giannis.
The Pacers were quite aggressive with their defensive approach on Giannis. For the most part, they double-teamed (and sometimes triple-teamed him) a majority of the time he had the ball. It’s definitely something that has worked at times and will surely be something that the Bucks encounter again. Here’s what Adrian Griffin had to say regarding the defensive looks Indiana was throwing at his guys postgame:
“Great. I love this because it gets us ready. This is how teams are going to play, especially in the playoffs. They’re gonna double-team, triple-team, him...so, it always gives us the opportunity to get better and it’s something we work on religiously. Giannis had a triple-double. We’re accustomed to teams playing that way. The fourth quarter, when you turn it over, it just gets a little bit magnified, but for the most part, we were making some really good plays when they were double-teaming him.”
Keep an eye on how this unfolds tomorrow night in Indianapolis.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Despite shooting the ball poorly from deep, the Pacers were still able to be effective in other areas. They’d end up shooting just 5-of-35 from the perimeter, but effectiveness on the glass, bench, and other areas propelled them to victory.
- As mentioned before, Giannis secured another triple-double. He now has three on the season, which leads the Eastern Conference, all of which have come in the last 15 games.
- Malik Beasley made his 1,000th career three tonight and went 4-of-8 from the arc. He’s now made 4+ threes in 14 games, which is third most in the NBA.
- Brook Lopez blocked four shots, marking his second consecutive games with 4+ blocks. He’s now averaging 3.06 blocks per game (2nd in NBA) and has blocked a league-high 101 total shots this season.
- It was another strong outing for Khris Middleton, as he finished with 21 points. That’s the sixth time this season with 20+ points. He didn’t score 20+ points in the first 20 games of the season, but he’s now reached that mark in four of his last five games.
- Last, the Bucks had a terrific tribute to Herb Kohl: