An 8-0 start proved to be the highlight for the Indiana Pacers in an otherwise frustrating game against the Milwaukee Bucks. The quick start was upended almost instantly with the Bucks scoring 11 straight, flipping an otherwise back-and-forth game into one that sided almost entirely with Milwaukee.
Indiana looked like a dinosaur against the Bucks, who flung three pointers with reckless abandon. The end result was 47 attempts for Milwaukee, hitting 17 of them. The Pacers meanwhile shied away from such attempts, going 6-18 from deep. That difference made all of the difference, keeping the Pacers from winning a single quarter.
Milwaukee’s offensive gameplan trended towards abandoning the midrange game completely. Throughout the night, the Bucks had just seven shots outside of the paint while the Pacers took 28. The Pacers shot 39% in the midrange, a number admittedly skewed thanks to an 0-6 fourth quarter, but compared to Milwauke’s 36% from three point range, it’s understandable how the league has adjusted to taking the extra step back.
That’s not to suggest what the Pacers are doing offensively doesn’t work, but on nights like this, it’s easy to see where it can improve. That does take shot making from the Pacers, and again, on a night like this, it simply wasn’t there. Bojan Bogdanovic went 0-7 after a stellar opening night, missing both of his threes while Darren Collison bounced back with 10 on 4-6 shooting, but none of his shots were from three point range.
The only starter who looked to let it fly was Myles Turner, but he finished 0-4 from deep, the trio making a solid case against such a strategy. The Bucks meanwhile had themselves a night in their home (and arena) opener, getting threes from eight different players, including five from Khris Middleton and two (two!!) from Jon Henson.
The early stages of the game were tilted in Milwaukee’s favor due to a big advantage on the glass and the ability to capitalize off of turnovers. The Pacers were sloppy again, but weren’t as effective in getting stops off of those mistakes, ultimately getting outscored 26-18 in points off turnovers despite eventually tying the game in turnovers at 17 apiece.
Not only was the three point shooting an issue for the Pacers, but so too was Giannis Antetokounmpo, who torched the Pacers in the first half at will. Antetokounmpo scored 22 first half points, all in the paint. That threat inside opened up the game for the Bucks in the second half, with him dishing four assists in the second half, all three pointers.
The Pacers were led on the night by Victor Oladipo, who had 25 points on 10-23 shooting. Oladipo’s success was found in the midrange, but even then, the Bucks were quick to recover as Eric Bledsoe blocked two of Oladipo’s shots from behind. One of the lone highlights for Indiana came from Oladipo, however, who stuffed Antetokounmpo at the rim, forcing a jump ball.
Off the bench, Domantas Sabonis continued his stellar play with a 12 point, 13 rebound double double, pulling in six of Indiana’s nine offensive rebounds. Unfortunately, only one of those rebounds was converted into points, with the Bucks outscoring Indiana 6-2 in second chance points, one of seemingly numerous missed opportunities for the Pacers.
The bench did have three double figure scorers, but seven turnovers among Sabonis, Cory Joseph, and Tyreke Evans. Evans did reach double figures with 10, dishing four assists, finding Sabonis twice as well as Doug McDermott, who was Indiana’s lone bright spot from deep, going 4-6 from three point range. Unfortunately, two of those came in the final three minutes with the game well in hand for the Bucks.
All in all, tonight’s game was nothing short of frustrating. The Pacers were unable to string together baskets and stops, and the lone stretches of success seemed to be broken up fairly quickly by timely three point shooting or something being done by Antetokounmpo. Things got away from the Pacers just enough just often enough that there was no real chance short of a complete breakdown from Milwaukee, which they did well to avoid.
Hopefully the Pacers got plenty of practice guarding the three point shot because they’ll return home for their first back-to-back of the season against the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets averaged nearly 36 attempts a game last year, setting up another difficult task for the Indiana in holding serve at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.