The Milwaukee Bucks enter the All-Star break on a 2-game winning streak after defeating the Indiana Pacers 106-97 on Wednesday night. Milwaukee continued their streak of not losing to the same team twice this season and hold the season series over Indiana, 2-1. The Pacers currently sit in the 3 seed in the East even without Victor Oladipo and have the second highest defensive net rating in the league so this was a highly anticipated matchup for both squads.
The game started slow with both teams combining to go 2-8 from the field the first 3 minutes. Then Giannis found his zone. In the first 5 minutes of the game, Giannis had 6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. That’s called taking over a game from the start. Brook Lopez was able to hit his first 3 in his last 14 attempts but picked up 2 fouls early to send him to the bench. Milwaukee’s offense slowed down at the end of the quarter but their defense remained relentless and they held a 26-18 lead at the end of the first quarter. Giannis had 13/6/4 on 5-7 shooting in the first alone.
As they do most second quarters, the Bucks came out firing with 9 points in the first 3 minutes to build up their lead to 13, all with Giannis on the bench. This didn’t last long and the Pacers went on their own run in the next few minutes to bring the score back to within 5 with contributions from their whole lineup. The rest of the quarter was an even between the top two defensive teams in the league. Giannis ended the half with 15/9/6 and Brogdon and Lopez added 9 points each to take a 55-47 lead into the locker room. Known Bucks killer Bojan Bogdanovic was the only Pacer to reach double digits in the first half with 10 points on 3-6 shooting.
Indiana came out in the second half fired up on the defensive end and found their shooting stroke, which forced Coach Bud to call an early timeout. The break in action certainly didn’t seem to help the Bucks in the following minutes but it definitely slowed down the Pacers offense as they couldn’t hit any wide open looks. Indiana took their first lead with 7 minutes left in the quarter at 59-58 behind good shooting from Darren Collison. Giannis didn’t take too kindly to this and immediately put the Bucks back on top with an alley-oop and-1 in transition. Indiana threatened to pull away but a surprise performance from George Hill kept Milwaukee close. The Bucks as a team were shooting under 40% from the field and under 30% from 3. The Pacers led 79-76 going into the final period.
Indiana came out on a 7-0 run to start the fourth and again Coach Bud was forced to call an early timeout. This one worked better than the last and Milwaukee immediately cut the lead down to 3 to force Indiana to call a timeout less than 5 minutes into the quarter due to layups from Giannis, Brogdon, and Middleton. Milwaukee came out of the timeout aggressive. Brogdon and Giannis got layups again and again to take the lead and force yet another timeout by Indiana with 5:54 left, Bucks up 91-90.
With 3 minutes left in a tie game, Giannis picked up his 5th triple-double of the season with his 10th assist to Ersan Ilyasova. After an Indiana miss the next possession, Giannis dished it to Middleton for a corner 3 to give him another assist for good measure and a 5 point lead. That was all that was necessary as Milwaukee was able to close it out with a final score of 106-97.
Giannis finished with 33/19/11 on 12-22 shooting and a multitude of highlight dunks. Aside from Giannis, the guard combination of Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill went an efficient 11/19 from the floor and provided the spark down the stretch.
Nikola Mirotic didn’t participate as expected due to his calf strain. The training staff didn’t want to risk any further injury with the All-Star break looming. Mirotic will likely make his Bucks debut next Thursday against the Celtics at Fiserv Forum.