The Indiana Pacers ended the Milwaukee Bucks’ 15-game home winning streak with a 122-113 comeback victory Monday night at Fiserv Forum. It was an arena record streak for the team, who last lost at home on Oct. 29 vs. the Atlanta Hawks.
The Pacers won their fourth straight after coming back from two separate 15-point deficits, the second of which was in the third quarter. Indiana (18-14) was powered by its second unit, which outscored the Bucks’ 70-16 and saw Ben Mathurin (25), Isaiah Jackson (18), T.J. McConnell (16) and Obi Toppin (11) reach double figures. Tyrese Haliburton was the only Indiana starter that made a major impact.
On the other end, the Bucks saw all of their starters reach double figures, but Damian Lillard was just 3-for-16 from the field overall and 1-for-9 from behind the three-point line for 13 points. He also had five assists. Shooting guard Malik Beasley was 4-for-8 from behind the three-point line, but he was plagued by foul trouble.
Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded a 30-point, 18-rebound, 11-assist triple-double and Khris Middleton had 21 points and six assists while Brook Lopez added 21 points and four blocks, but there wasn’t much help beyond then. The Bucks’ four bench players went a combined 6-for-19 (31.5%).
Pacers try to get under Bobby Portis’ skin
On Sunday, Bobby Portis was asked if there would be any carryover between the teams after a lively Dec. 13 contest that saw Portis get ejected after getting two technical fouls and a total of eight technical fouls being issued in the game.
Portis laughed and said 2024 was a new year and the Bucks’ focus was on themselves.
That may be true, but the Pacers clearly didn’t forget.
Indiana’s Isaiah Jackson hit the floor hard trying to get a rebound over Portis in the first quarter and immediately got up to perhaps try and get to Portis, but was immediately restrained by teammates. Portis was called for a loose ball foul, but the replay appeared to show Jackson hook Portis’ arm as he leapt for the ball before crashing hard. The pair had history, as Jackson had his nose bloodied by Portis when the Bucks forward made an offensive move in the last game.
Then in the second quarter, Pacers guard T.J. McConnell followed Portis around the court following a foul on Ben Mathurin. Portis pushed McConnell away from him as he walked away, and McConnell was given a technical.
It perhaps worked, as Portis fouled McConnell in the fourth quarter and then gave the guard a little extra after the whistle to earn a technical foul. It was Portis’ seventh technical foul this season.
Portis finished with eight points on just 4 of 12 shooting, including an 0-for-4 mark from behind the three-point line. He also had five rebounds and four personal fouls.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has triple-double vs. Pacers
Rick Carlisle has been a coach in the NBA since 1989 he couldn’t think of an individual he’s game-planned for who has had such sustained dominance against one of his teams like Giannis Antetokounmpo has had against Indiana of late.
And Carlisle could only recall a three-game stretch as a player of such dominance, when his Boston Celtics played a young Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1986 playoffs. Jordan averaged 43.7 points on 50.5% shooting along with 6.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game in those games. He went for 49, 63 and 19 points in those games.
“It’s a big task, for sure,” Carlisle said of trying to slow Antetokounmpo.
Indiana tried again on Monday, and Antetokounmpo again proved too much for them to handle by recording his 38th career triple-double and third of the season with 30 points, 18 rebounds and 11 assists. He’s victimized Indiana for four of those triple-doubles and is now tied with Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis for No. 12 all-time.
But it’s been the last four seasons in which the two-time league MVP has truly taken ownership of the Bucks’ Central Division rivals. Beginning in 2020-21 (12 games) the 29-year-old has recorded:
- 1 Franchise scoring mark (64 points)
- 3 Triple-doubles
- 3 Games with at least 50 points
- 5 Games with at least 40 points
A big part of that production has come at the free-throw line.
In his previous three games against Indiana this season, Antetokounmpo went to the free-throw line 18, 13 and 32 times. When asked before the game how his team could do a better job at preventing so many trips to the charity stripe, Rick Carlisle paused for four seconds before asking, “Got any ideas?”
“Look, his greatness is unquestioned,” Carlisle continued. “The problems he creates are massive. We’re continuing to work on it. There’s no one blueprint that’s fool proof or that’s going to for sure work. They’ve got a lot of shooting around him, so that makes it hard, too. So…yeah.”
Antetokounmpo had averaged 17.5 free-throw attempts per game against Indiana in the last six games heading into Monday. On New Year’s Day, the Pacers were a bit more effective in finding a way to prevent that as Antetokounmpo was 8-for-11 from the line.
Tyrese Haliburton stays steady for Indiana
A first-time all-star last season, Oshkosh native Tyrese Haliburton has made that honor now feel rudimentary and he is now into the conversations regarding starting in the game and earning all-NBA honors as one of the best guards in the league. He came into the New Year having posted consecutive games of at least 20 points and 20 assists the last two games and averaging 23.5 points and 15.8 assists per game over his last six contests.
But the Bucks put an emphasis on him early, and not just with guard Malik Beasley but with other defenders – including Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Haliburton was just 3-for-10 in the first half for eight points, though he had six assists and a steal to help his team stay connected to the Bucks. Somewhat notably, the Bucks also forced him into two turnovers. Haliburton had come into the game with a dozen games with two or fewer turnovers (including five with no turnovers).
The point guard stayed steady, however, and didn’t force anything in the second half – even as his team once again fell behind by 15 points with under five minutes left in the third quarter. He instead keyed a prolonged rally that saw the Pacers eventually take the lead early in the fourth.
Then with his primary defender (Beasley) in foul trouble deep into the game, Haliburton attacked and scored nine points down the stretch to give his team the win and clinch the season series over the Bucks.
Haliburton finished with 26 points on 11 of 22 shooting, 11 assists and nine rebounds. And perhaps more importantly for his team, he did not turn the ball over again after the half.
Bucks honor Sen. Herb Kohl with moment of silence, video
Prior to tip-off, Bucks public address announcer Eric Jensen read a tribute to former club owner and state Senator Herb Kohl, who passed away Dec. 27 after a brief illness. The arena held a moment of silence for Kohl, who owned the Bucks from 1985-2014 and helped keep the Bucks in Milwaukee on several different occasions. He was given a championship ring in 2020 and rode in the team’s parade.During the first timeout in the first quarter, the organization then played a video tribute to the late Senator.
3 10-second violations called on Giannis Antetokounmpo so far this season after a third quarter free-throw attempt was nullified for taking too long.
8:32 Time left in the first half when the Pacers entered the penalty thanks to a flurry of early fouls called on the Bucks. Indiana shot 14-for-17 from the free-throw line over that time as Milwaukee was whistled for 10 personal fouls in the frame. Indiana’s first foul of the quarter came at the 5:39 mark and they were whistled three times. Thanks in part to the free throws the Pacers erased a 15-point first quarter deficit and led by as many as six in the second quarter.
24 Technical fouls called on Bucks players so far this season.
131.5 Points per game average for the Bucks in December, when they went 11-2. It is the highest-scoring month in NBA history. They scored 130 or more points in eight of the games and 140 or more four times.
259.5 The over/under on points, per BetMGM. The teams continue to set records in this regard. ESPN reported that the Dec. 7 over/under of 257.5 was the highest in the NBA since 1991. Then the Dec. 13 game had an over/under of 258.5. The Pacers came into the game with the league’s No. 1 scoring offense (126.6) while the Bucks were No. 2 (125.0).
What happened the last time the Bucks played the Pacers?
Not only did Antetokounmpo score 64 points, but there were several heated postgame conversations between different members of each team and Antetokounmpo ultimately ran down the Pacers tunnel.
Click here for a more detailed version on what led to those conversations.
Bobby Portis was also ejected in that game and several Pacers players were assessed technical fouls.
Bucks injury report
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo, available (personal reasons)
- MarJon Beauchamp, out (non-COVID illness)
- Jae Crowder, out (left adductor surgery)