LAS VEGAS – The Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers played a back-and-forth, high-scoring contest at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. 119 success.
Thursday’s semifinal counted toward each team’s regular-season record, as the Bucks fell to 15-7 on the season and the Pacers improved to 12-8.
The Pacers will face either New Orleans or the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday for the right to hoist the inaugural NBA Cup trophy. That game will not count toward the regular season standings. The Bucs go home and play Chicago on Monday.
The Bucks trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half, then charged back to take the lead in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for a dramatic fourth quarter.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 37 points on 13-of-19 shooting. He made 11 of his 13 free throws and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Box score: Pacers 128, Bucks 119
Damian Lillard added 24, while Khris Middleton (20) and Brook Lopez (18) also reached double figures. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, the rest of the team managed just 20 points.
Oshkosh native Tyrese Halliburton led the Pacers with 27 points and 15 assists, and he gave his team a 122-114 lead when he sank a three-pointer with 48 seconds left. Myles Turner (26), Opie Toppin (14), Isaiah Jackson (11) and Bruce Brown (10) also scored in double figures for Indiana.
Clean play key for Bucks
The Bucks played a nearly flawless first quarter, committing just two personal fouls and one turnover. That changed dramatically in the second quarter, as they turned it over six times and were called for eight fouls as the Pacers overcame a 29-27 first-quarter deficit to take a 56-44 lead with 3:09 left in the first half.
The Bucs rallied from that deficit with a strong third quarter in which, you guessed it, they didn’t turn the ball over or commit a single foul in the first 7-plus minutes of the period. During a 21-5 run in the third, the Bucs took a 78-72 lead.
Indiana regained the lead early in the fourth quarter, thanks to an early Bucs turnover and a three-point play that turned into four after Bucs guard Cameron Payne was assessed a technical foul. Then, with the Bucks trailing 113-110 with less than three minutes to go, they turned it over twice more, leading to Pacers baskets.
The Bucks have wanted to play aggressively on defense all season, but limiting their offense was key and how clean they played against the Pacers helped dictate the outcome.
did you notice
The Bucks and Pacers played the game under theater lights, the lights focused on the red and blue court. Only three NBA arenas use those lights for their regular matches (Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden, Crypto.com Arena for Los Angeles Lakers games).
7 Lillard missed consecutive shots to start the game. He then went 7 for 13 and finished with 24 points, including 16 in the third quarter.
11-4 Bucks record when the big three of Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Lillard play together.
43 points in the third quarter by the Bucs, a season high. They set their previous best with 36 on Tuesday against the Knicks.
257.5 The pre-game/under for a Bucks-Pacers game is the highest combined point total projection announced by ESPN since 1991.
1992 The NBA last hosted a regular season game in Las Vegas (Portland vs. Los Angeles Lakers). Kareem Abdul-Zabar broke Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time scoring record in Las Vegas, doing so in 1984 when the Lakers played the Utah Jazz in town.