The bad losses continue to pile up for the Indiana Pacers, losing to a heavily short-handed Milwaukee Bucks team on the road. The Bucks, already absent Giannis Antetokounmpo to health and safety protocol, made Khris Middleton a late scratch, but Indiana failed to capitalize even a little bit, falling apart down the stretch for the latest in a season full of “worst loss of the year.”
The Bucks fully recognized their situation whereas the Pacers simply did not. Milwaukee outworked Indiana on both ends of the floor, blowing the game wide open in the fourth quarter after what had largely been a back-and-forth affair. Milwaukee jumped out early, hitting seven of their first 10 threes, but the Pacers stormed back in large part to a big quarter from Caris LeVert.
Things started drying up for the Pacers after they took a 44-42 lead midway through the second quarter, going scoreless for nearly four minutes and allowing the Bucks to take the lead on a 7-0 run. That five-point advantage would hold into the half, when perhaps the game’s most ominous play took place as Brad Wanamaker and Domantas Sabonis played hot potato on the half’s final possession, letting the half sadly expire without so much as a look at a shot attempt.
The eventual suffering that would ensue would be put on hold for much of the third quarter as the Pacers opened the second half on an 8-2 run to take a 61-60 advantage. The game would see-saw throughout the third, but despite holding seven different leads in the quarter, they would would record just one stop when they had the lead, which fittingly resulted in an immediate Malcolm Brogdon turnover and Bobby Portis dunk.
Indiana kept the good times rolling early in the fourth, taking two more leads to only allow the Bucks to instantly regain the lead. Down one, Kelan Martin was whistled for a technical foul and Pat Connaughton drilled a three, suddenly swelling the lead up to five. Indiana couldn’t stop the bleeding, missing their next three shots, giving Milwaukee enough time to extend the lead to seven and then nine.
The wheels completely fell off at that point. The Pacers turned it over on five of their next seven possessions and just like that, they were down 112-92, having surrendered 21 straight. It was a complete breakdown for a Pacers team that was already not putting themselves in position to win leading up to the fourth, but once it escaped their grasp, they weren’t anything close to resembling competitive.
The Pacers spent much of the night chasing Milwaukee’s advantage at the three point line all while contending with a mess of turnovers prior to the fourth. They rebounded well, getting pretty much anything they wanted inside. Sabonis in particular was huge in the third, scoring 12, six of those coming off of his three offensive rebounds.
That absolutely did not carry over into the fourth. The Pacers gave up five offensive boards (leading to six Milwaukee points), and had just two points in the paint for the first 10:30 of the fourth. In allowing a 21-0 run, the Pacers found themselves down 25-5 in the fourth, making whatever that was a prime nominee for “low point of the season.”
Indiana’s defense was a wreck all night. The Bucks finished with 14 threes and 48 points in the paint, but Jrue Holiday in particular carved up the Pacers with unparalleled precision, scoring 26 points on 12-18 shooting with 14 assists, helping both Portis and Connaughton to 20-point nights.
For the Pacers? Sabonis and LeVert each had 16 as team leaders. LeVert’s hot start and Sabonis’s impressive third (getting him to 14 rebounds) was just about all there was to the starting fives’ night. Myles Turner picked up his scoring pace after a dreadful start, finishing with 13 points and five blocks. Malcolm Brogdon led the Pacers in three pointers with three, scoring 12, and Chris Duarte had 10, hitting a pair of threes.
They all had multiple turnovers, however. Fourteen of Indiana’s 19 came by their hands, barely ticking above a 1:1 assist/turnover ratio with 17 dimes total. Off the bench, Oshae Brissett was the biggest spark to Indiana’s injury, but he also faltered at times, going 0-4 from three and committing two costly turnovers as well.
The Pacers, one shot or stop from extending their winning streak to four straight just two nights ago now suddenly appear to be right back at square one with another inexcusable loss. The level of miscommunication and lack of preparedness was staggering tonight. They barely looked like a functional NBA team, paying dearly against a Milwaukee team that simply came ready to play despite their numerous absences.
Indiana will return home tonight before hosting the Detroit Pistons tomorrow. The Pistons haven’t won since the last time they faced Indiana, so it must be a nice treat for them to feel like they can finally pick up a win.