For most of the night, the feeling was that the Pacers should’ve had a bigger lead. The Bucks offense struggled out of the gate to find their shot, yet the lead the Pacers held never reached double digits. Just like the Pacers hung around when they pulled out a close win in Charlotte, the Bucks did the same thing tonight when it mattered.
Milwaukee was without Andrew Bogut, giving the Pacers a golden opportunity to get a solid home win against a Bucks team that has struggled out of the gate. After Brandon Jennings jumped the Bucks out to a 6-0 lead, the Pacers would take the lead halfway through the first and not look back until the closing moments. The Bucks had a difficult go ahead finding offense in the first quarter, but Indiana would leave the door open.
While the Bucks struggled in the first half, the real catalyst came from the Pacers defense forcing Milwaukee into bad shots. The Pacers offense worked hard to find shots inside, and in the second quarter, took 17 trips to the line, as part of an explosive 40 point second quarter, where the Pacers shot well above .500. A buzzer beater by Darren Collison pushed the Pacers to a 60-point first half, and an eight point lead going into the locker rooms.
The defensive effort remained solid in the second half, but the offense betrayed the blue and gold, which would only make 1 of their first 11 field goal attempts. In the first half, Indiana worked the ball inside, settling for threes in absolutely necessities, offering up just 8 attempts. In the third quarter alone, the team took 7, and continued their attempts throughout the fourth quarter.
Roy Hibbert and Collison remained quiet in the second half after double digit first halves. As the ball moved away from Hibbert, the flow of the offense went with it. The Bucks eventually got over the wall the Pacers had set up in the fourth quarter, and would use that to push them to a victory. Down the stretch, Indiana remained solid offensively, but turnovers in the second half didn’t help the cause, neither did the team’s inability to continue their free throw trips.
As the fourth quarter waned, Darren Collison stepped up big time, scoring the final five points of the night for Indiana, as the team took a five point lead down to two with seconds to go. The Pacers curiously opted to not foul on the Bucks final possession, with just 25 seconds to start, and Roy Hibbert was curiously whistled for a blocking foul when the big fella stepped into a textbook charge. Time ran out on the Pacers, who only scored 30 points in the entire second half, giving them their second straight loss, and dropping them to 2-3 on the season.
After the jump, more on the defense, the offense, and no finger pointing at Jim O’Brien:
- Turnovers ended up costing the Pacers tonight. Danny Granger had a tough time holding onto the ball all night, committing seven turnovers. Roy Hibbert himself had six, totaling for 13 of the team’s 19. Milwaukee capitalized on those turnovers in the second half, using them as catalysts to get them the lead and eventual victory.
- Paul George tweeted after the 76ers game that he was going to start playing the game his own way. George’s end result? A career high ten points on a pair of big triples in the third quarter. George worked through his shot, and contributed big time to the second half offense tonight.
- James Posey had a season high nine points tonight, hitting three triples. Going 3-7 tonight, Posey has gone 6-18 from beyond the arc this year, on 20 FGA. That’s 90% of his shots coming deep. Can’t say he doesn’t know what he’s looking for in his shot.
- Granger had a solid first half, even though his shot was never set into motion, going 4-8 with 11 at the half. Danny worked hard to get inside, and had taken no three point attempts at the half. This kind of effort was refreshing to see from him, unfortunately, was finished by an 8-point second half on four three point misses.
- Mike Dunleavy’s worth to the Pacers when his shot isn’t falling (which it hasn’t been recently) is being heavily debated, but no one can take away Mike’s rebounding numbers. Mike is averaging 7.2 RPG, up nearly 4 a game from last season. His activeness on the offensive end is nice, but he would be invaluable if he could only drop a consistent jumper.
- Speaking of rebounds, the team started off well, but Milwaukee would finish with the upper hand. The Pacers had 44 boards, but only 3 on the offensive end. When you can’t give yourself second chance shots (as Milwaukee pulled down 9 on the offensive glass), it’s very difficult to win these types of games, as proven by the loss tonight.
- Roy Hibbert led the Pacers with a career high (tying) six blocks. The Pacers finished with nine, and have, in case you weren’t aware, are one of the top five teams in rejections.
- Credit has to be given to the Pacers tonight for their efforts defensively. In the second half, Milwaukee capitalized on second chance opportunities, and solid ball movement, but Indiana continuously hammered the Bucks and forced them into late shot clock attempts, usually well covered or contested. It’s no substitute for a home victory, a chance to stay atop and possibly push ahead in the Central Division standings, but Indiana has shown growth defensively this season already. If these types of defensive efforts are consistent, wins will be more consistent as well.
- Offensively, the Pacers worked through Roy in the first half, giving Indiana a lot of options inside and out, as well as plenty of opportunities from the line. In the second half, ball movement stopped, Roy was no longer invited to the offense, and free throw attempts plummeted (though not always a fault of their own). This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time this happens, but it’s almost disappointing they’re not doing better.
The Pacers fall to 2-3, but could still be in a tie for first place depending on how Chicago and Boston closes out. The Pacers will hope to avoid another long layoff hangover as they welcome the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. The road doesn’t get any easier, the Pacers need to avoid an early three game losing streak.