GAME RECAP: Pacers 118, Bucks 111
T.J. Warren scores 35 points as Indiana beat Milwaukee, 118-111.
T.J. Warren scores 35 points as Indiana beat Milwaukee, 118-111.
T.J. Warren, Domantas Sabonis, and Victor Oladipo speak to the media following Indiana's 118 - 111 win over Milwaukee.
Feb. 12, 2020 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan speaks with the media following Indiana's 118-111 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
T.J. Warren scored 35 points on 16-of-19 shooting in Indiana's 118-111 win over the Milwaukee Bucks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
February 12, 2020 - Myles Turner gets his defender in the air and drives in for the layup.
February 12, 2020 - T.J. Warren hits the clutch three with a defender in his face.
February 12, 2020 - Malcolm Brogdon sets up Jeremy Lamb for the easy layup.
Warren Turns Defense to Offense
February 12, 2020 - Victor Oladipo receives the pass on the run and knifes through the defense for the finish.
February 12, 2020 - Myles Turner spots up a few feet beyond the 3-point line and drills it.
February 12, 2020 - T.J. McConnell gets the steal and takes it down the floor for the bucket.
February 12, 2020 - Malcolm Brogdon starts the fastbreak and dumps it off to Victor Oladipo for the dunk.
February 12, 2020 - Victor Oladipo drives it from beyond the 3-point line and hits the layup plus the foul.
February 12, 2020 - Malcolm Brogdon pulls off the crossover to create space and hits the midrange jumper.
February 12, 2020 - T.J. Warren gets the deflection, comes up with the ball and converts the fastbreak dunk.
Crafty Warren Lifts Pacers, Two at a Time
Doug McDermott was following T.J. Warren's career long before he became a teammate, even before they entered the NBA in 2014.
Back in the 2013-14 season, when McDermott was finishing up a four-year collegiate career at Creighton, McDermott kept an eye on a sophomore forward at North Carolina State named T.J. Warren who was about to enter the NBA Draft, even if only in box scores.
"When I was up for the awards and stuff, he was always there, too," McDermott said Wednesday after the Pacers' drought-quenching 118-111 victory over Milwaukee. "So, people were always comparing us in college. We pushed each other from a couple of states away, I guess you could say."
McDermott and Warren both were voted their conference player of the year that season. McDermott wound up winning most of the national awards and was a first-team All-American, while Warren, who had only recently photo-bombed the national picture of elite players, settled for second-team recognition.
Warren rarely settles now, especially when it comes to finding a way to score. Playing the starring role in the Pacers' most meaningful victory of the season, one that ended a six-game losing streak over the team with the NBA's best record, he sliced and leaned and faded his way to 35 points while hitting 16-of-19 shots. Only two of his attempts came from behind the 3-point line, much to the dismay of analytics experts.
Warren's in-game field goal percentage of .842 established a franchise record for players who made at least 16 field goals. He got his share of layups and dunks, particularly at the end of the game when the Pacers beat Milwaukee's press, and he hit one 3-pointer — a big one in the fourth period to help push back a Bucks' rally that threatened to ruin both the Pacers' evening and their All-Star break.
More than anything, however, he did what he usually does, which is feast on mid-range shots. On-balance or off-balance, it's all the same to him. Early, middle, or end of game, that's all the same, too. He scored eight points in the first quarter, six in the second, eight in the third, and then 13 in the fourth, when they counted most.
Leave it to his longtime admirer to summarize.
"It's something you don't see often," McDermott said. "He's so crafty. Every time he throws up a floater or something around the rim you think it's going in. Even if it looks like it's a mile off, it's somehow going to hit the rim and the backboard and go in."
Warren's outburst, one short of his season high and five shy of his career high, lifted his season's scoring average to 18.5 points and replaced Domantas Sabonis as the team's leading scorer. He's shooting 53 percent from the field, outstanding for a small forward but normal for him, which is why he takes this kind of shooting performance in stride.
This is the guy, after all, who declares matter-of-factly that "scoring is easy."
Defense isn't, though, and Warren was equally productive at the end. He had a game-high four steals and limited Milwaukee's All-Star forward Khris Middleton to 17 points (3.5 below his average) on 6-of-17 shooting.
"Definitely wanted to take that challenge," Warren said. "Get in his air space, make him shoot tough shots. We were just locked in as a team (defensively). My bigs were giving me confidence as far as communicating coverages for me."
"He's been one of our better defenders all season long," coach Nate McMillan added.
Photo Credit: Matt Kryger
Warren's performance stood out among a balanced effort that will be crucial for the Pacers going forward. With the luxury of having the intended starting lineup for just the second game this season, they jumped to a 34-20 lead in the first quarter and raised that to a 23-point margin at halftime before their third-quarter malaise set in.
All the starters scored in double figures and made notable contributions. Myles Turner had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocked shots, one of them especially crucial in the fourth quarter. Sabonis had a rare non-double-double with 15 points and eight rebounds. Victor Oladipo had his best game of the six he has played, scoring 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting along with four assists. He also took another charge, his team-leading sixth of the season.
Malcolm Brogdon, though, played the biggest part in the victory in the non-Warren division. Milwaukee had collapsed a Pacers' lead that peaked at 25 points in the second quarter to five with 10:51 left. Having seen enough, McMillan called on Brogdon and Warren to re-enter the game ahead of schedule.
Brogdon hit a driving floater on the next possession, followed with a turnaround shot in the lane off a drive, then hit Jeremy Lamb with a one-handed pass off the dribble for a layup. Moments later, Brogdon assisted on three consecutive field goals — an 18-foot floater by Warren, a 3-pointer by Lamb in front of the Pacers' bench, and another 3-pointer by Warren that pushed the lead back to 10 and forced a Bucks timeout.
Brogdon finished the fourth quarter with 10 points and five assists and the game with 17 points and a career-high 13 assists.
"Stabilize the game," he said of his fourth quarter job description. "(McMillan) knows I can calm the game down, he knows I can control the pace, he knows my teammates trust me with the ball.
"The last five games I hadn't been doing my job of calming the game down, finishing the game. Tonight, I felt more like myself, my teammates trusting me with the rock at the end of the game, and we were able to close it."
Milwaukee played without MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, who welcomed a son earlier in the week, as well as former Pacer George Hill (hamstring) and Kyle Korver (back). The Pacers, though, are absolved of feeling sorry for anyone given their injury issues throughout the season. Besides, Milwaukee had won all five of its previous games without Antetokounmpo, each by a double-figure margin.
The victory was just what the Pacers needed to help them forget about the six-game losing streak over the week-long All-Star break. They'll return to action at New York on Feb. 21 with fresher legs, a fresher mindset and the potential for significant improvement. Oladipo says he will devote his break to more workouts and hopes to all restrictions lifted for the remaining games.
"With Vic back and everybody healthy, we're very excited moving forward," Warren said.
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