The good feelings from earlier this afternoon carried over in a big way for the Indiana Pacers, who not only got the return of Victor Oladipo, but completed a big victory over the Milwaukee Bucks to extend their winning streak to five games.
From a game-flow perspective, there wasn’t much to this one. The Pacers led wire-to-wire and spent most of that time up double figures. However, the way they went about their business was a complete encapsulation of the kind of team they strive to be on a nightly basis. They outworked Milwaukee everywhere on the floor, responding to every Bucks run with one of their own.
The Pacers didn’t lose a single quarter in this one, outshooting Milwaukee 47% to 43% and putting in more threes than the bulk shooting Bucks. Indiana had 31 assists and a +12 rebounding advantage, with 14 offensive rebounds. Five of those came from Thaddeus Young, who led the way for the Pacers on both ends of the floor.
Young had a season high 25 points on 9-14 shooting, completing a double double with 11 rebounds. Young also had four assists, five steals, and went 6-8 from the line. His five offensive rebounds led to six second chance points, but above all that was his play on the defensive end, matched up primarily against Giannis Antetokounmpo and taking it to him with no remorse.
Young’s success against Antetokounmpo is not a new development; CC wrote about it this past spring, but with Antetokoumpo taking a step forward this year to cement himself within the MVP discussion, it was surprising to see just how effective Young and the Pacers continue to be in containing him. While Young was scoring a season best, he was helping to hold Antetokounmpo to a season low 12 points. If plus minus is your stat, Young’s +28 to Antetokounmpo’s -31 tells the whole story.
Oh yeah, there was also this for good measure:
Even though the Pacers largely held Milwaukee in check, the Bucks did manage to get loose and piece together dangerous mini-runs. This particular approach helped the Bucks climb to within eight points with 4:25 remaining, their first time within double figures in the second half.
Out of a timeout, Oladipo and Myles Turner worked wonders in the pick and roll. Oladipo drew the defense, setting up Turner for a wide open three to push the lead to 11. After a stop, they ran the same play, this time with Oladipo banking a shot off the glass to force a lightning quick Milwaukee timeout.
It was one of the rare moments in the game that Oladipo was a focal point of the offense. Even with Oladipo returning to the lineup, the Pacers continued to play as they had without him. His first time touching the ball within the offense was him standing in the corner for a wide open three.
Not surprisingly, things got a little cluttered when the offense ran through Oladipo, at least until the 5-0 run that helped seal the win. He finished with a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and did work well within the offense overall though, dishing six assists. Five of those went to three pointers, two to Turner.
Turner himself continued his high level of play, scoring 23 points with seven rebounds and three blocks. Turner even led the way for the Pacers from deep, hitting four of his six attempts, including a pair of corner makes. In the last two games, Turner has scored 49 points, the most he’s ever had across two games.
Indiana had six double figure scorers overall, including a 16-point night from Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic continued to score well, shooting 5-10 with three threes. The second unit provided solid minutes for the Pacers with Domantas Sabonis and Doug McDermott scoring 12 each.
Sabonis completed a double double of his own with 10 rebounds while McDermott took full advantage of his opportunities, going 5-5 from the floor, all assisted shots. Cory Joseph and Tyreke Evans struggled shooting, combining for 4-15, but Evans hit a pair of big jumpers to push Indiana ahead by double figures in the second quarter while Joseph had a nifty coast-to-coast immediately after, totaling six rebounds and six assists.
The win moves Indiana to within a half game of Milwaukee in the Central Division. While a bit early to start standings watching, it does tie up the season series at 1-1. The two teams will meet again on February 13 in Indianapolis.
In the short term, the Pacers will be part of the national focus heading into their second game of the year against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers have been 10-4 since the acquisition of Jimmy Butler, but will enter on a loss after falling to Brooklyn at home with Butler sitting out.