One of the more surprising developments in a game the Indiana Pacers allowed 48 first quarter points to the Milwaukee Bucks is that they actually had it within reach late at points in the second half. Though the game was probably never truly as close as the 13 point deficits suggested, it was a bit of a nice run after getting comfortably blown out for much of the night.
The third quarter push, led by 13 points from Caris LeVert, helped cut the lead to 13 late in third, but Jrue Holiday and the Bucks were there to respond, using a four-point play to instantly push the lead back to 17. After again cutting the lead to 13 early in the fourth, the Pacers missed their next five shots, allowing the Bucks to push it back to 19 on a 6-0 run.
Tonight’s game had a chance to not follow the typical Pacers-Bucks in Milwaukee blueprint of the Bucks obliterating the Pacers with Giannis Antetokounmpo being ruled out earlier in the afternoon. Indiana, however, countered with two late scratches themselves, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner, moving Doug McDermott and Edmond Sumner in the starting lineup.
That particular lineup worked for McDermott’s opening three and then suddenly didn’t work as Milwaukee scored the next 19 unchallenged. To be fair to a rather strange lineup, the Bucks didn’t seem capable of missing anything. They hit nine of their first 10 from three, shooting over 70% for the quarter while Indiana missed nine straight of their own, allowing the Bucks to jump all over Indiana for a 48-26 first quarter lead.
The Pacers didn’t make much headway in the second, a cool 8-2 Bucks run to end the half giving them the second quarter victory. Indiana’s opening lineup again started the third, getting the lead to a (then) game high 26 before LeVert helped shoot Indiana back into with a trio of threes late in the quarter.
By the end of this one, the Bucks scored 140, shooting a blistering 24-39 from three point range. The Pacers, meanwhile, did enough offensively in a regular night to at least have a fighting chance late, but a 12-50 shooting night from deep really kept them out of it from the jump.
Without Brogdon or Turner, Indiana’s depth really took a hit. Indiana’s Holiday brothers in particular had incredibly tough nights, combining for three points on 1-17 shooting (1-14 from three) while Milwaukee’s Holiday brother completely carved up the Pacers with 28 points and 14 assists. Sumner as well offered little outside of an early three, finishing with that and two rebounds.
It wasn’t all bad, at least from an individual standpoint, however. Perhaps it was mostly bad defensively (they did win the turnover battle 16-6), but Goga Bitadze and Jeremy Lamb were nice boosts off the bench. Lamb scored 21 on a steady 8-14 (3-7) shooting with six rebounds and five assists while Bitadze scored 10 in extended run, pulling in six boards, four on the offensive glass.
T.J. McConnell also settled the otherwise volatile point guard rotation tonight, scoring 13 with seven assists (and a backcourt steal) in his 32 minutes. Domantas Sabonis had 22 points and nine rebounds while McDermott finished with 20 on 9-14 shooting, attacking with ease.
LeVert’s third quarter shooting was one of the first real glimpses the Pacers have gotten of his ability to score the ball at will. It not only helped breathe life into Indiana’s night, but it was a nice response to what was otherwise a lackluster first half offensively and terrible start defensively in the third quarter.
The Pacers wrap up their latest road trip at 2-1, their first winning trek since early February when they posted the same record. The road heavy schedule will continue this weekend, but not before a brief return home for a one-game stand against the Detroit Pistons.