Things continue to trend in the wrong direction for the Indiana Pacers, who dropped their third straight game, falling to the Milwaukee Bucks and to 1-3 on the season. The Pacers opened the game up 7-0, but quickly relinquished the advantage on an 8-1 Bucks run. The Bucks would move ahead 16-15 late in the first quarter, putting Indiana in the rear view for the remainder of the game.
Indiana was never truly able to jump start their offense, unable to erase a seven point advantage while holding Milwaukee scoreless for four minutes in the second quarter, eventually falling behind by 17 in the third quarter. Chris Copeland proved a key part in Indiana's offense in mounting a comeback, forcing the game to within five before Giannis Antetokounmpo put in five straight to double the lead back to 10.
Copeland and Antetokounmpo would duel to open the fourth with the Bucks managing to keep Indiana at arm's length as turnovers mounted for the Pacers, creating ample opportunities for Milwaukee. With two minutes left and Indiana trailing 84-73, Indiana ran off an 8-0 run capped by a Copeland three to pull Indiana to within three at 84-81 heading back on defense.
But as was the case against Atlanta on Saturday, a big time bucket from the opposing point guard would sink the dagger in Indiana's chances, Brandon Knight capping a game high night of 23 points with a jumper to put the game out of reach with 22 seconds remaining as the Bucks would wrap up an 87-81 victory. The win snapped two lengthy streaks for the Bucks; a six game losing streak to the Pacers, dating back to December 2012 and their first road win since February 24.
For as much as Milwaukee did to win tonight's game, Indiana did all they could to help the Bucks into the win column tonight with their continuing turnover issues and abysmal free throw shooting. Heading into tonight, Indiana had turned it over 18 times in each of the first three games, topping that tonight with 19. Unfortunately while the turnovers have been their own issue, the defense off of those turnovers has been crippling for an Indiana team that has struggled to break 90.
Indiana was outscored a mind boggling 28-4 in points off turnovers, allowing a Milwaukee team that averaged over 21 in their first three games to play relatively well with only 13 turnovers. Points off turnovers have been an issue this year, the Pacers getting outscored 85-39. For a team that has a hard enough time having a chance to win games, this can't continue even with the current crop of guys else the Pacers stand to go winless for quite some time. Not as if Indiana has had much success forcing turnovers, entering the game 27th in the league at creating turnovers.
The amount of lost possessions with turnovers and bad shots hasn't helped Indiana much, but a lack of ability to create easy buckets in transition has been another issue with this depleted roster. The Pacers are on the wrong side of a 63-27 fast break advantage, but looking at the roster, it's not a surprise. Rodney Stuckey has proven the only player capable of really creating offense, but he's limited and no one else has any kind of breakaway ability.
After his foot injury, Stuckey did play tonight, though still in limited minutes at just 18 minutes, struggling with nine points on 3-11 shooting. It was Stuckey's worst game as a Pacer, at least in the sense of coming in off the bench and changing the complexion of the game in any shape or form. The bench as a whole did offer up some positives though, especially rebounding.
Lavoy Allen had perhaps the biggest impact of any Pacer tonight, coming up with 12 rebounds, seven on the offensive glass to keep Indiana alive with second chance opportunities. Together with Ian Mahinmi, the two corralled 10 of Indiana's 15 offensive boards as part of 23 second chance points, the only real way Indiana was able to create offense after shooting 39.7% for the game and just 13-22 from the line, giving away ample opportunities to put the game in their favor late.
The Pacers found little success from three point range, going just 6-24, but getting four of those from Chris Copeland who led the way for Indiana with 19. Copeland did his part offensively to at least create opportunities for the Pacers late. C.J. Miles on the other hand, continues to struggle mightily, blanking on an 0-8 night to drop him to 28% shooting on the season. Miles looked to be an up and down player, and he's certainly showing the down part of his play here in the early goings.
Solomon Hill appears to be trending in a positive direction with another nice game, scoring 12 points with five rebounds and two steals. Hill's progress will be a big part of this season, and it's certainly a relief he's showing something of note after a woeful preseason and opening pair of games. Until the Pacers find some help, Hill will be a big part in giving some kind of defensive support to Roy Hibbert, who has done the best he can keeping the starting unit afloat in games. Hibbert had 16 points on the night, shooting 7-10 from the floor with seven boards and five blocks.
The Pacers will face their second straight back-to-back when they travel to face the Washington Wizards on the road tomorrow night in an attempt to snap their losing streak. It will be featured on ESPN, giving a national audience a chance to glimpse into what Indiana's roster has become, though it's hard to imagine it will be appointment viewing for many NBA fans, especially with Washington playing without Bradley Beal.