With the season winding down and the playoff race heating up, the Pacers used an overpowering second half to grab a 104-89 win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
For the third game in a row, Paul George was instant offense for the Pacers, racking up 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Blue & Gold. The Pacers also had yet another strong performance from Lance Stephenson, who scored nine points while passing out five assists on Thursday night.
The victory not only keeps Indiana afloat in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race, but gives them an achievement that they’ve been unable to reach for two entire months: winning back-to-back games.
“We’ve played really good these past two wins at home,” Paul George said. “We’re figuring some consistency out.”
If there were ever a time for the Pacers to start a run, Thursday night was it, with the visiting Bucks needing a win to clinch a playoff berth and the Pacers needing one to give themselves any margin for error as the season’s final three games approach.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: Track the Pacers’ Playoff Push »
The game was essentially decided in the third, when Indiana used an impressive quarter to build upon its six-point halftime lead. Although the Bucks threatened in the fourth, Stephenson helped parry the run, finding Thaddeus Young on a fullcourt assist and nailing a 3-pointer to push Indiana’s lead back up to 13.
In the team’s last Hickory Night of the 2016-17 season — honoring the IHSAA 2017 Basketball State Champion Teams — Indiana had no use for a dramatic Hoosiers comeback, gaining control of the lead with just over five minutes remaining in the first half and not letting go for the remainder of the night.
“We kept getting stops,” explained Kevin Seraphin, who scored 11 points off the bench. “We were working together and we were connected tonight. We played as a team and we just kept getting stops. We just did a good job and we need to keep playing.”
The Bucks rallied to start the second half, using a 7-0 run capped by an and-1 in traffic from Antetokounmpo. But with their lead as slim as 63-61, the Pacers’ starting unit regained control of the game, reeling off an 11-0 sprint to put themselves back in control of the game.
That run eventually morphed into what turned out to be a 20-6 outburst from the Pacers, seizing control of the game in the third quarter as their lead ballooned to 83-67 following a Jeff Teague off-balance jumper in the closing moments of the quarter.
The fourth was more of the same from the Pacers, who managed to overcome a 25-point, seven-rebound, six-assist night from the Bucks’ do-everything All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. By the game’s end, the Pacers had outscored the Bucks in all four quarters.
To open the night, Indiana was cold from the field, making just three of its first 11 shots from the field as Milwaukee gained an early lead.
From there, however, the Pacers’ offense started to click, with Stephenson and the bench unit scoring six unanswered points to give Indiana a 25-21 lead entering the second quarter.
In the second, Milwaukee began to climb back into the game, executing a 7-0 run to grab a 33-32 lead.
After the Bucks edged in front, the teams began to trade buckets, with the lead changing hands four times in a two minute span.
“When you have a guy attacking us at will and scoring on us, we have to get mad and be aggressive,” said Stephenson of Antetokounmpo. “Make him make passes or make his teammates make shots and we did that.”
With just over five minutes left in the half, George began to heat up. After nailing jumpers over his defender on consecutive possessions to give Indiana a lead, George collected a steal at midcourt and hammered a one-handed slam in the open court to put the Pacers up by four, triggering a Bucks timeout. The Pacers never trailed again.
Out of the break, Milwaukee was still unable to find an answer for Indiana’s attack, as the Pacers scored three more unanswered buckets to make it a 10-0 Indiana run.
A late 3-pointer from the Bucks gave the Pacers a 56-50 lead at the half.
But in the third quarter, Indiana grabbed control of the game for the rest of the night, outscoring the Bucks 29-23 to take a 12-point lead into the final frame at The Fieldhouse. From there, Indiana continued to hammer away, going on collect the critical 15-point home win, staving off the season sweep by the Bucks in the process.
“These past couple of games we’ve tightened up on the defensive end,” George said after the win. “We made the game a lot easier for outselves by creating offense off of our defense.”
Inside the Numbers
Paul George hit 9-of-14 shots and picked up four steals in the winning effort.
Indiana forced the Bucks into 21 turnovers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo got to the free throw line a game-high 13 times, making 11 of them.
Thaddeus Young recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
You Can Quote Me On That
“With Lance and Aaron Brooks in the game together, we have the versatility to move them from point to wing. Aaron is a good three-point shooter and with Lance at the point, that gives us another option on the wing (Aaron). I thought Aaron did a real solid job, especially closing out the game in the fourth quarter. They (Milwaukee) do a lot of scrapping and trapping and we wanted to attack their rotations.” -Pacers head coach Nate McMillan
“We kept guys in front of us. We did exactly what we were supposed to do on the defensive end, which was make them take tough contested shots and we got a huge win. I think that’s the biggest thing, just keeping those guys in front of us, making them take contested shots and we ran them off the three point line for the most part. Teletovic got off a little bit; but he’s only one guy. It’s easier when it’s just one guy as opposed to the whole team going off.” -Pacers forward Thaddeus Young
“We had way too many turnovers. We talked about it before the game, we’ve got to take care of the ball. If you turn the ball over against them (Indiana), it puts you in a bad situation defensively because they’re going to take advantage of it, and they did.” -Bucks head coach Jason Kidd
- The Bucks hit 11-of-24 3-point shots on the night
- Jeff Teague led the Pacers in assists with seven
- In his third game with the Pacers after re-singing, Lance Stephenson recorded nine points and five assists
Stat of the Night
For the first time since February 6 when the Pacers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana has won back-to-back games.
Indiana embarks on a two-game road trip, facing the Orlando Magic on Saturday night at 6 PM ET. Following the road trip, the Pacers come home for their final game of the regular season game, a Wednesday meeting against the Atlanta Hawks. Find Tickets »
Home Court Gift Shop Game Night Special
Hickory State Hat – $10. Game Night Specials can be purchased in the Home Court Gift Shop or any of our souvenir stands located on all levels of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The special is also available online at PacersGear.com until midnight.
Away Game Night Special
“We are Indiana” T-Shirt – $12. Game Night Specials can be purchased online the day of each away game from 10:00 AM – Midnight. Order Online »
TV: FOX Sports Indiana – Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: 107.5 FM/AM 1070 The Fan – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Slick Leonard (analyst), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)
Please Note: For the remainder of the season, all Pacers radio broadcasts can be heard on FM 107.5 as well as AM 1070 The Fan. Inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Pacers radio broadcasts can be heard on 1080 AM instead of 1070.
The Pacers host their final Hickory Game of the season when the Milwaukee Buckets visit Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday night at 7 PM ET. Find Tickets »
Construction Note: The Delaware St. entrance to the Virginia Ave. Parking Garage is no longer in operation due to the construction of the St. Vincent Center. To enter the Virginia Ave. Parking Garage, please use the entrance located at the intersection of E Maryland St. and S Alabama St.
In addition, the southbound lane of Delaware Street from Maryland to just south of the train bridge will be closed for the duration of the construction project.–>