A disappointing second half showing slammed the door shut for the Indiana Pacers against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pacers, after going back-and-forth throughout the second quarter, were blitzed in the third, staggered to end the quarter, but were knocked out cold in the fourth, snapping their five game winning streak, falling to 0-2 against Milwaukee on the season.
The Pacers jumped ahead in this one 10-0, a lead that was both necessary and not nearly enough. While the Bucks missed everything early, the Pacers themselves had to labor to the double figure advantage. Neither team found a rhythm in the first quarter, shooting just north of 30%, which tends to favor the more explosive team, in this case, not the Pacers.
Indiana did lead 22-21 after the first, however. That advantage needed to be larger and that it wasn’t allowed Milwaukee to jump into the lead to open the second. In that quarter, both teams did find their offense, leading to 13 lead changes and five ties over the 12 minutes. Indiana’s ability to respond proved key here, overcoming a big quarter from George Hill to score eight straight, taking a brief lead after falling behind by seven.
Indiana led 55-54 with 1;36 left in the half, but surrendered the final five points of the half, giving Milwaukee a four point advantage. Across the first and second quarters gave up nine unanswered points to end both quarters, giving the Bucks a huge advantage in the one area where they didn’t yet have one.
Domantas Sabonis fouled Wesley Matthews on the second half’s opening shot, sending him to the line for three points. Unlike in the first half, the Pacers didn’t respond, missing their next two and turning it over to make it a nine point deficit in under two minutes. The Pacers cut it to seven, but that proved as good as it would get, missing their next six shots and turning it over three more times.
Milwaukee outscored the Pacers 12-1 in that stretch, eventually pushing their lead to 21 late in the quarter. The Pacers, who had blanked completely from three point range in the quarter, found live to close it, holding Milwaukee scoreless in the last three minutes while hitting three consecutive threes to end the third, cutting the lead to 10.
Fourth Quarter Doug McDermott made it a nine point game three minutes into the fourth, but the Bucks responded with a purpose, hitting five three pointers in two and a half minutes, turning a nine point lead into a 20-point one. That proved the end of the road for the Pacers, losing their 10th game of the season in disappointing fashion.
Indiana’s total team effort was sorely lacking in comparison to Milwaukee’s. The Bucks had six double figure scorers, all with 12 points or more. Only Sabonis and McDermott eclipsed that total for Indiana’s five double figure scorers. Despite puling in 18 rebounds, Sabonis and the Pacers didn’t even have the high mark there; Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19, leading Milwaukee to a 61-48 thrashing on the glass.
The Pacers, allowed all the threes they could handle, hit just 12-40 on the night, to Milwaukee’s 15-44. Sixteen offensive rebounds for the Bucks led to 16 extra points and their ability to draw fouls proved light years ahead of Indiana, outscoring the Pacers at the line 14-3. The seven fouls the Bucks committed tonight was the second lowest in the league this season, giving Indiana absolutely no room to make up ground.
Basically, anything the Pacers did, Milwaukee did better, which eventually snowballed into the 28-point avalanche the game would end on. The Bucks offensively scored 117 despite shooting just 42%. The Pacers did a good job, especially early, of containing Antetokounmpo’s overall impact, but it didn’t really matter when the Bucks surrounding him all showed up.
Five Bucks players shot 50% or better, compared to just three for the Pacers. McDermott’s 15 on 6-9 shooting was as good as it got shooting for the Pacers, who languished at just 37% for the night, totaling 34 second half points after putting up 33 in the second quarter alone.
Individually beyond McDermott offered very little positives. Sabonis finished with 19 and 18, but his exemplary shooting early in the game didn’t have quite the same effect after the break. He was just 2-10 after the break. The absence of Jeremy Lamb may not have made up the difference, but any chance of a big scoring night could have helped Indiana out, especially as T.J. Warren finished with just nine, Aaron Holiday with 11, and Malcolm Brogdon scoring 10 on 5-19 shooting.
Off the bench, the prospects weren’t much better. T.J. McConnell was 2-7 for five points and Justin Holiday was 1-5 for three. Hill and Robin Lopez alone outscored the Pacers bench (including garbage time), scoring 30 on 14-18 shooting. In the first half, Brogdon was able to make an impact on the game through his passing, dishing eight of his 10 assists, but the success wasn’t coming for the Pacers with the same consistency in the second half, which is frustrating in its own right given how many good looks the Pacers got throughout the entire game.
If this was a test game, the Pacers failed miserably, failing to take their recent success on the road against a division opponent. They’ll have another tough road game at the end of the week in Miami, but in the meantime will face the Toronto Raptors at home tomorrow night. The Raptors now boast the longest winning streak in the East with five themselves, but will also be on the second night of a back-to-back after overcoming a 30-point deficit to defeat Dallas.