Pacers Get Dismantled By Bucks on National TV, Lose 130-110

Grant Afseth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Indiana Pacers sought to showcase where they stand in the Eastern Conference entering Wednesday's nationally televised matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

It seemed as though the Bucks had control of this game almost immediately. Milwaukee jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead and achieved their first double-figure advantage at the 5:20 mark of the first quarter. 

Much of the Pacers' offense early on was Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis attempting to shoulder the scoring load. At one point, both players were a combined 4-of-13 (30.7%) from the field. Sabonis managed to heat up while Brogdon was unable. 

Indiana hung around through one period as they trailed just 29-21 at this point but were constantly playing from behind. That only worsened in the second quarter as Milwaukee scored a game-high 39 points -- extending their lead to 68-51 at halftime. 

"We just didn't come out with enough urgency on both ends," Pacers forward Doug McDermott said. "It's something we've got to clean up. We've got to come out with that mindset that just because we played the night before doesn't give us an excuse to kind of lay an egg."

Milwaukee was firing on all cylinders in the opening half and was led by their 12-of-26 (46.2%) clip from the perimeter -- scoring more points in a half than any other Pacers opponent this season. Giannis Antetokounmpo was also nearly unstoppable as he had 14 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists within this stretch. 

"Defensively we weren't as active right there coming out of the gates," Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said. "But I thought we showed glimpses of it there, I did. We had a stretch there of six stops in a row in the second quarter, then didn't quite finish the half. I thought we were going to keep coming, I thought we were going to crack into it there."

The Bucks' decision to stay home on shooters essentially gave the impression they were satisfied with the Pacers' top offensive options trying to shoulder the load since it wouldn't enough. 

Sabonis took advantage of not having multiple defenders being sent his way near when trying to operate near the basket. He also never relented taking open jump shots when they came his way either. At halftime, he had 18 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. 

It was a different story for Brogdon as he never managed to find a rhythm -- emboldening the Bucks' defensive philosophy. At the end of the second quarter, he had just eight points and went 3-of-11 (27.3%) from the field. Meanwhile, the Pacers had only one other player with even five points up until this point. 

The Bucks continued to build on their advantage in the third quarter by putting up another 38 points while limiting the Pacers to just 21 of their own. It was more of the same from both teams. Sabonis added another 15 points within this frame -- meaning only six points came from Indiana's other players. 

"Milwaukee's a great team," McDermott said. "They're very deep and they play the right way and they're a great defensive team as well. Whenever you give a team like that a lead like that at home...it made it tough. We dug ourselves too big of a hole and we know we can't do that." 

The outcome of this game was already decided before the third quarter even ended. Entering the final period, the Bucks were up 106-72 and already had 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists from Giannis Antetokounmpo and 17 makes from the perimeter as a team. 

Simply put, much of the Pacers' defensive strategies are predicated on giving up three-pointers in favor of protecting the rim. Indiana couldn't handle the almost seemingly never-ending barrage of perimeter jumpers. In fact, the Bucks went a staggering 21-of-48 (43.8%) from deep overall -- setting a new record for most made three-pointers by a Pacers opponent in team history. 

Staying in front of Antetokounmpo was a tall task when considering he slots in at the four spot and the Pacers have slow-footed Sabonis in their lineup. Indiana had to ask Myles Turner to primarily guard Antetokounmpo -- taking him away from being a rim protector. 

"[Antetokounmpo] is an MVP-type player for a reason," Pacers guard TJ McConnell said. "He finds the open shooters, we were just a step slow getting out to them. We have to be better in that area."

The limitations of having two big-men was put on full display in this matchup for the Pacers. Despite Sabonis setting a new career-high in scoring with 33 points, Indiana was blown out with no answer for Antetokounmpo or the Bucks' shooting. 

The Pacers sorely lacked a dynamic shot creation presence in this game with Brogdon having a bad outing. Not having Caris LeVert or TJ Warren in the lineup was limiting, but they do not necessarily have that type of skill-set either. 

The Pacers will be back in action on Friday when they take on the New Orleans Pelicans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. 

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