Game Rewind: Pacers 131, Bucks 141
Friday, January 27 at 7:00 p.m. ET at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse
If there’s one thing to know about the 2022-23 Indiana Pacers, it’s that they never give up.
The Pacers could have wrapped it up after a dismal first half against the Bucks, a team that had beaten Indiana in nine straight encounters Friday and dominated the first two quarters by as much as a 33 lead and an 85-56 lead going into halftime .
Instead, the Blue & Gold scraped and scraped until the final buzzer, trimming Milwaukee’s deficit to seven before eventually dropping to 141-131.
In the end, it was another loss for Indiana (24-27) to the Bucks (32-17), but the Pacers’ resilience was fully on display after they encountered an absolute buzzsaw in the first half.
Six Pacers hit double digits in the loss and three surpassed 20 points. Myles Turner had a team-high 24 points, plus five rebounds and four blocks. Buddy Hield added 22 points and three steals, going 5-to-9 from 3-point range, while Bennedict Mathurin picked up 21 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
But it wasn’t enough to defeat two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. The Greek freak scored 41 points on 16-of-29 shooting while also counting 12 rebounds and six assists to lead the Bucks to victory.
“We circled the wagons and decided to get competitive and turn the game around,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said of Indiana’s comeback efforts after a frustrating first half.
Two three-pointers from Pat Connaughton and seven quick points from Antetokounmpo put the Bucks ahead early Friday. The Pacers stayed solid for much of the frame thanks to strong starts from Turner (nine points on 4-of-6 shooting) and Chris Duarte (eight points and two assists).
But the Bucks went 9-for-16 from 3-point range in the first quarter and finished the period on a 15-3 run — topped by a buzzer-battering three-pointer from former Pacer Wesley Matthews — and grabbed a 45- 30 lead into the second quarter.
Milwaukee stayed hot in the following frame as Jevon Carter drilled two more Treys and another jumper to extend the visitors’ lead to 21 points two minutes into the quarter.
Mathurin impressed offensively for Indiana in the quarter, scoring 11 of Blue & Gold’s first 17 points.
Unfortunately for the Pacers, they couldn’t find a way to slow the Bucks down. Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton combined for 14 straight points for the visitors before Brook Lopez hit a three from the top of the key that extended Milwaukee’s lead to 76-48, with 3:57 remaining in the first half.
After a timeout, Jalen Smith scored four points for Indiana with a free throw and a 3-pointer, but the Bucks responded with nine unanswered points to take the lead to 33. The Pacers scored the last four points of the half but still took part in the half by a staggering 85-56 deficit.
“The starts we’ve gotten to are just horrendous,” said point guard TJ McConnell of the first 24 minutes. “We’re not going to be a team that’s a moral winning team where we played great in the second half. It’s already too late. We fought hard but we lost and that’s because of the way we did we started. We just can do it.” I don’t always get to slow starts.”
To her credit, the Blue & Gold emerged from the intermission fire. Turner and Hield hit early threes as Indiana opened the second half with an 8-2 sprint. The Pacers were consistent points in the third quarter but were still down 109-86 after Grayson Allen’s third turn, with 3-58 staying within range.
Indiana finally put together a real load to close out the quarter. Hield started with a three-point game. After a layup by Jrue Holiday at the other end, McConnell set up Turner for a layup, then stole Lopez’s inbound and scored an easy two of his own.
Hield drilled another Trey at 1:57 in the quarter and then Smith hit a breakaway slam in the last minute after another McConnell slam. That 12-2 run cut the deficit to 111-98 and forced a timeout from Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer with 37.5 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Budenholzer switched on Antetokounmpo again and the Bucks immediately got an open look at Connaughton in the right corner to bring the lead back to 16. Smith pulled a foul and hit one of two free throws in the final seconds to make it 114-99 in the fourth quarter.
The Pacers managed to narrow the lead to 11 after Andrew Nembhard’s knight, leaving 9:03 in play, but Antetokounmpo took the next two possessions. First, the two-time MVP spun past Turner for a layup on the halfcourt. Then, after a Nembhard turnover, Antetokounmpo pulled into the break, took a drop-off pass from Allen, launched from the front of the lane and threw a hard right-hand slam through contact.
Those two buckets pushed Milwaukee’s lead back to 120-105 with 8:35 remaining. The Pacers again came within 11 after Nembhard’s alley-oop to Turner with 7:05 remaining. Once again, Antetokounmpo responded, scoring five straight points to keep the Pacers from climbing into the single digits.
The Bucks substituted Antetokounmpo for a breather shortly after, and Indiana promptly reeled off five points in a row. Upon his return, Hield Holiday stole the ball, then dumped a three and eventually made it a single-digit game at 129-121 with 4:06 remaining.
The Blue & Gold came twice in seven, the second time after a free throw from Mathurin with 2:06 to go. But Holiday pulled a foul at the other end and took both foul shots and then — after Mathurin missed a jumper — deflated Milwaukee’s 18. 3-pointer of the night to seal the win.
McConnell filled the Indiana stat sheet with the loss, registering 19 points, six rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Duarte had 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and six assists, while Aaron Nesmith had 10 for Indiana.
Holiday just missed a triple-double with 23 points, nine boards and nine assists for the Bucks. Middleton scored 17 points in 15 minutes while only playing in the first half as he worked his way back from a knee injury. Lopez added 15 and Connaughton 14 when the duo combined for seven 3-pointers.
Indiana will play in Memphis on Sunday night and then have three days off before opening a three-game home stand against LeBron James and the Lakers on Thursday.
In the numbers
Milwaukee’s 45 points in the first quarter was the second most the Pacers have allowed in the opening frame this season, but an improvement from their last game as they allowed 46 in the first quarter in Wednesday’s loss in Orlando.
The Bucks followed in the second quarter with 40 points, the most points by a Pacers opponent this season. The Pacers responded with a season-high 43 points in the third quarter.
Turner led Indiana in scoring for the 10th time this season and had four shots blocked in 11 games for the sixth time this month.
Hield added five 3-pointers to his league lead and is now just four away from becoming the third player in franchise history to score 200 3-pointers in a single season. Reggie Miller holds the franchise record with 229 in 1996-97 and Paul George made 210 in 2015-16.
Mathurin surpassed 20 points for the 21st time and his fourth straight game, the longest streak of his young career.
Antetokounmpo recorded his ninth 40-point game of the season. His only fights on Friday came from the free throw line, where he started 1 of 9 and finished the night 7 of 18.
Milwaukee’s 141 points was the most by a Pacers opponent this season. They finished the night 18-for-43 from 3-point range.
Post-game media availability: January 27, 2023
You can quote me on this
“A difficult and ugly start to the game. I just think we need to take a stand as a team and just decide that we’re going to play together at the start of the games.” – Carlisle
“It’s up to the starters, man. It really is. We can try to point the finger here and there. Our second unit I think has done a great job (this season) of keeping us in games and to get us back but the starters did need to come out with a better sense of urgency this time of year you should have -gymnasts on Indiana’s slow starts
“If we come out and run and play at pace, we’re pretty good. If we can’t stop and play half the court, you see what happened in the first half.” -McConnell on what changed in the second half
“They’re a very disciplined team with structure from top to bottom… They know exactly what they want to do offensively. Defensively, they will come down and guard you. And they have guys on their list who stay by those principles. You have to give credit where credit is due – these guys are champions. They’ve been there before (and) won there before.” – Turner on why the Pacers fought Milwaukee
“I think the extra minutes are obviously helping, but I just have to give credit to my teammates. They’re the ones telling me to be aggressive and look for my shot. When I do that, it opens up the pass and gets the ball moving. Just credit to the other guys that are out there with me. -McConnell takes on more of a goalscoring role as starting point guard Tyrese Haliburton is sidelined
“I feel like every game it just progresses. Every game I feel better, physically and mentally. My ankle is a lot better, my shot is coming. Overall I just feel better… You can do this see another Chris Duarte from three weeks ago until now.” -Duarte on feeling more comfortable after returning from an ankle injury in December
state of the night
The Bucks scored 85 points in the first half, beating their own record for most points by a Pacers opponent in the first two quarters (previously they had 83 points against Indiana on March 22, 2021 in Milwaukee). Milwaukee shot 63.5 percent from the field and went 13 to 24 (54.2 percent) from across the arc in the first two quarters.
The Pacers have now lost 10 straight games to Milwaukee, the franchise’s second-longest losing streak against an opponent since 2000-01. Indiana last beat the Bucks on February 12, 2020 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Nembhard returned to action after missing two games with a non-COVID illness. The rookie guard recorded nine points and four assists in 20 minutes off the bench. Carter fouled at 9:36 in Friday’s contest. The Pacers were down by double digits in all 14 games in January. They are 4-10 in these games.
Indiana travels to Memphis to face Ja Morant and the Grizzlies on Sunday, January 29 at 6:00pm ET.
The Pacers welcome LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers to the Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Thursday, February 2 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Find tickets >>