Game Rewind: Pacers 116, Bucks 120
In the last Pacers game of 2015, Indiana fell 120-116 to the Milwaukee Bucks in a New Year’s Eve matchup at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
It seemed, for a moment, that the Pacers were primed to end 2015 on a winning note when Indiana made a late rally, getting the deficit to just three points with 2:00 remaining in the game. But an and-1 conversion from Khris Middleton, who finished the night with 33 points, pushed the lead to five once more.
However, Indiana was able to draw a charge, sending the crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse into a frenzy. On the following offensive possession, Paul George drew a foul and calmly sunk both of his free throw attempts to lift the crowd to its feet.
With a chance to tie, a George Hill corner three rattled off the rim and into Bucks possession. But the Bucks were unable to convert, giving the Pacers another chance to knot things up at The Fieldhouse.
As George Hill drove the baseline, he spotted a wide-open Monta Ellis in the corner, who missed the shot as well, which forced Indiana to foul Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams, who hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the Bucks a 118-114 advantage with 13.2 seconds left.
Needing quick points, Solomon Hill drove the lane and threw in a two-handed dunk, but Khris Middleton made it a two-possession game once more by hitting both of his free throws, sending the Pacers to the 120-116 loss.
“I’m proud of the guys for fighting and staying in it but we’ve got to play the first three quarters,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said after the game. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and hopefully we’ll start the new year strong.”
The Pacers made a memorable third-quarter rally as well, when Paul George buried a huge 3-pointer to give the Pacers their first lead since early in the first quarter. But Milwaukee responded in force; using a deflating 14-2 run to retake the lead and then some.
A vital part of the Bucks’ run was the sharpshooting of Khris Middleton, who followed up a career-high 36-point performance on Tuesday against the Thunder with a 33-point night in Indy.
But aside from Middleton, and the impressive performance of center Greg Monroe (23 points), it was self-inflicted wounds that did the Pacers in, committing 20 turnovers, which the Bucks turned into 35 points.
Although the Pacers fell victim to a 20-6 Bucks run in the first quarter of action, Indiana was able to battle back in the second quarter, using a last-second 3-pointer from C.J. Miles to cut the deficit to seven at halftime. The Pacers trailed by as many as 13 in the first half.
“We can’t use playing last night as an excuse for being sluggish tonight,” said George Hill, who scored 15 points. “We have to protect our home court at all times.”
Big men Lavoy Allen and Myles Turner started the game hot. Allen led the team in scoring with 12 points through two quarters, and Turner pulled down eight boards. But it still wasn’t enough to contain Bucks center Greg Monroe, who went off for a game-high 17 points in the first half. It was a game in which the Pacers bigs needed to perform, since Ian Mahinmi (sore knee) and Jordan Hill (dental work), were both sidelined.
Paul George, who has struggled to score at the same clip as he was in November, had his best offensive night in weeks, racking up a team-high 31 points, including key foul shots to inch the Pacers closer to a lead.
In the fourth, Frank Vogel tried to show a wrinkle in his lineup by inserting the recently called-up Shayne Whittington in the lineup. Whittington played well, passing out two assists and scoring two points in his five minutes of action.
But the Bucks continued their torrid shooting, as the Pacers struggled to keep pace on the second leg of their back-to-back. Milwaukee finished the night shooting 58 percent from the field and racking up 58 points in the paint.
It was just Indiana’s third home loss of the season, which came as a surprise against a Bucks team that had lost 15 of their last 16 road games.
Now the Pacers turn their sights ahead to a Dec. 2 matchup with the Detroit Pistons, looking to put their best foot forward in 2016.
Inside the Numbers
The Pacers turned the ball lover 20 times, leading to 35 Milwaukee points. Conversely, Milwaukee’s 17 turnovers led to just 16 Pacers points.
Lavoy Allen tied his Pacers career high with 14 points in the game.
The Pacers’ 27 assists were one shy of their season-high of 28; a mark they’ve hit three times this season.
Rookie Myles Turner had a strong first half, hauling in eight rebounds. He finished the game with nine boards and eight points.
What They’re Saying
“It was just being aggressive. You always want to come out aggressive and just make sure I get to my spot and make sure I’m finishing around the rim.” -Bucks center Greg Monroe
“I’m a little fatigued. But I’m used to going out and just performing. I dropped a couple of passes tonight. I just need to get my timing down and used to playing with a splint.” -Pacers center Myles Turner
“We picked up the pressure and forced them into some turnovers. That enabled us to get some good looks. Some looks just didn’t go down or we could have gotten the game to overtime.” -George Hill
“You want to change the game. We tried two different ways in the fourth quarter with two bigs and then a different way with Solomon (Hill) at the five. You just try to get something going. That lineup made a lot of things happen. I’m proud of the guys for fighting and staying in it but we’ve got to play the first three quarters. We’ve got a lot of work to do and hopefully we’ll start the new year strong.” -Pacers head coach Frank Vogel
by Greg Rappaport