The Indiana Pacers have made a bad habit of falling behind early in the first quarter. Wednesday night, Darren Collison and the Indiana Pacers forced a Milwaukee Bucks turnover on the first play of the game. After a Lance Stehenson three pointer and a mid-range jumper by Collison, one may have thought that the Pacers were turning a corner as they led 5-4.
Following a Giannis Antetokounmpo alley-oop, the Bucks took the lead and never looked back.
Henson to Giannis FOR THE OOP!! pic.twitter.com/uF43LKW910— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 4, 2018
As it turned out, this game would be no different for the Victor Oladipo-less Pacers. The Pacers are now 0-5 without Oladipo and have lost five straight to fall to .500 on the season (19-19). Poor defense has been the story throughout the losing streak, and tonight was no different as Indiana allowed Milwaukee to score 122 points.
The Bucks set the tone early in the first quarter as they were able to take advantage of the Pacers off-ball defense. Milwaukee had much success setting off-ball screens and throwing lobs to, well, anyone. Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson, and even Eric Bledsoe flushed alley-oops.
Milwaukee finished the quarter shooting 60% (15/25). However, the Bucks’ length was especially a factor for the Pacers defensively as they struggled to find open shots. Myles Turner, who you think would be first option for the Oladipo-less Pacers, had only one field goal attempt in the first quarter (and missed). The Pacers trailed 34-26 after the first.
Domantas Sabonis was able to provide a lift for Indiana in the second quarter. His minutes coupled with Myles Turner showed promise as the two young bigs played especially well together on the offensive end.
Sabonis scored 12 points in the quarter, two of which were assisted by Turner. Turner also added two points with Sabonis on the floor. With two minutes remaining in the half, the Pacers trailed by just five points.
The Pacers struggled to close the half without their closer as the Bucks finished on a 5-0 run to end the half up 10 points, 62-52. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 37 first half points.
Milwaukee took complete control in the third quarter, and the Pacers’ frustration showed. Even Nate McMillan, who understandably disagreed with the referees, earned a technical foul with five minutes to go. Much like the end of the second quarter, the Pacers also struggled to close out the third as the Bucks led by 17 heading into the fourth, 93-76.
With the game out of reach and a few minutes remaining, McMillan substituted Alex Poythress and TJ Leaf into the game. Why Poythress did not get time earlier in the game is beyond me given his defensive capabilities, but it likely would not have ended in a much different result.
Domantas Sabonis was the lone bright spot for the Pacers on Wednesday as he scored a career-high 24 points on 10-13 shooting. He was a large reason why the Pacers outscored the Bucks 68-54 in the paint. However, the Pacers (3-15) suffered an 18-point deficit from three point land against the Bucks (9-17).
Darren Collison and Lance Stephenson added 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Antetokounmpo looked like a strong MVP candidate with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists on the night. Middleton added 27 points on only 14 field goal attempts.
The Indiana Pacers will return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday night to take on the Chicago Bulls at 7:00 pm ET.