Jalen Smith
(Matt Kryger)

Game Rewind: Pacers 131, Bucks 141

Friday, Jan. 27 at 7:00 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse

Game Recap: Bucks 141, Pacers 131

Game Recap

If there's one thing to know about the 2022-23 Indiana Pacers, it's that they never quit.

The Pacers could have packed it in after a dismal first half against the Bucks, a team that had beaten Indiana in nine straight meetings entering Friday and dominated the first two quarters, leading by as many as 33 and taking an 85-56 advantage into halftime.

Instead, the Blue & Gold scratched and clawed up until the final buzzer, trimming Milwaukee's deficit all the way down to seven before ultimately falling, 141-131.

In the end, it was another loss for Indiana (24-27) to the Bucks (32-17), but the Pacers' resilience was on full display after running into an absolute buzzsaw in the first half.

Six Pacers scored in double figures in the loss and three topped 20 points. Myles Turner had a team-high 24 points to go along with five rebounds and four blocks. Buddy Hield added 22 points and three steals, going 5-for-9 from 3-point range, while Bennedict Mathurin chipped in 21 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

But it wasn't enough to overcome two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. The Greek Freak scored 41 points on 16-of-29 shooting and also tallied 12 rebounds and six assists to lead the Bucks to victory.

"We circled the wagons and decided to make a stand competitively and turn the game around," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said of Indiana's comeback effort after a frustrating first half.

Two threes by Pat Connaughton and seven quick points from Antetokounmpo propelled the Bucks to an early lead on Friday. The Pacers hung tight for much of the frame thanks to strong starts from Turner (nine points on 4-of-6 shooting) and Chris Duarte (eight points and two assists).

But the Bucks went 9-for-16 from 3-point range in the first quarter and closed the period with a 15-3 run -- capped by a buzzer-beating three by former Pacer Wesley Matthews -- and took a 45-30 lead into the second quarter.

Milwaukee stayed hot in the ensuing frame, as Jevon Carter drilled two more treys and another jumper to push the visitors' lead to 21 points two minutes into the quarter.

Mathurin impressed for Indiana offensively in the quarter, scoring 11 of the Blue & Gold's first 17 points.

Unfortunately for the Pacers, they couldn't find a way to slow down the Bucks. Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton combined for 14 straight points for the visitors before Brook Lopez hit a three from the top of the key that extended Milwaukee's lead to 76-48 with 3:57 remaining in the first half.

After a timeout, Jalen Smith scored four points for Indiana on a free throw and a 3-pointer, but the Bucks responded with nine unanswered points to push the lead to 33. The Pacers scored the last four points of the half, but still entered halftime facing a staggering 85-56 deficit.

"The starts we've been getting off to are just atrocious," point guard T.J. McConnell said of the opening 24 minutes. "We're not going to be a team that is a moral victory team of we played great in the second half. It's already too late. We fought hard, but we lost and it's because of the way we started. We just can't keep getting off to slow starts."

To their credit, the Blue & Gold came out of the intermission firing. Turner and Hield hit early threes as Indiana opened the second half with an 8-2 spurt. The Pacers scored consistently in the third quarter, but still trailed 109-86 following Grayson Allen's corner three with 3:58 remaining in the frame.

Indiana finally put together a real charge to close the quarter. Hield got it started with a three-point play. After a Jrue Holiday layup on the other end, McConnell set up Turner for a layup, then stole Lopez's inbound and scored an easy two of his own.

Hield drilled another trey with 1:57 remaining in the quarter and then Smith scored on a breakaway slam in the final minute after another McConnell slam. That 12-2 run trimmed the deficit to 111-98 and forced a timeout from Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer with 37.5 seconds left in the quarter.

Budenholzer subbed Antetokounmpo back in and the Bucks immediately got an open look for Connaughton in the right corner to push the margin back to 16. Smith drew a foul and hit one of two free throws in the closing seconds to make it 114-99 entering the fourth quarter.

The Pacers managed to trim the margin to 11 following Andrew Nembhard's jumper with 9:03 remaining in the game, but Antetokounmpo took it upon himself the next two possessions. First, the two-time MVP spun past Turner for a layup in the halfcourt. Then, after a Nembhard turnover, Antetokounmpo trailed the break, took a drop-off pass from Allen, launched from near the top of the lane, and threw down a hard right-hand slam through contact.

Those two buckets pushed Milwaukee's lead back to 120-105 with 8:35 remaining. The Pacers again got within 11 following Nembhard's alley-oop to Turner with 7:05 remaining. Once again, Antetokounmpo answered, scoring five straight points to prevent the Pacers from climbing within single digits.

The Bucks subbed out Antetokounmpo for a breather shortly thereafter, and Indiana promptly reeled off five straight points. After he returned, Hield stole the ball from Holiday, then drained a three to finally make it a single-digit game at 129-121 with 4:06 remaining.

The Blue & Gold twice got within seven, the second time following a Mathurin free throw with 2:06 remaining. But Holiday drew a foul on the other end and made both foul shots and then -- after Mathurin missed a jumper -- drained Milwaukee's 18th 3-pointer of the night to seal the victory.

McConnell stuffed the stat sheet for Indiana in the loss, registering 19 points, six rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. Duarte tallied 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and six assists, while Aaron Nesmith scored 10 for Indiana.

Holiday narrowly missed out on a triple-double with 23 points, nine boards, and nine assists for the Bucks. Middleton scored 17 points in 15 minutes while only playing in the first half as he works his way back from a knee injury. Lopez added 15 and Connaughton 14 as the duo combined for seven 3-pointers.

Indiana will play on Sunday night in Memphis, then have three days off before opening a three-game homestand on Thursday against LeBron James and the Lakers.

Inside the Numbers

Milwaukee's 45 points in the first quarter were the second-most the Pacers have allowed in the opening frame this season, but an improvement over their last game, as they allowed 46 in the first quarter in Wednesday's loss in Orlando.

The Bucks followed that up with 40 points in the second quarter, matching the most points by a Pacers opponent in that period this season. The Pacers answered with a season-high 43 points in the third quarter.

Turner led Indiana in scoring for the 10th time this season and blocked four shots for the sixth time in 11 games this month.

Hield added five 3-pointers to his league-leading total and now is just four away from becoming the third player in franchise history to make 200 3-pointers in a single season. Reggie Miller holds the franchise record with 229 in 1996-97 and Paul George made 210 in 2015-16.

Mathurin topped 20 points for the 21st time and his fourth straight game, the longest streak of his young career.

Antetokounmpo recorded his ninth 40-point game of the season. His only struggles on Friday came from the free throw line, where he started 1-of-9 and finished the night 7-of-18.

Milwaukee's 141 points were the most by a Pacers opponent this season. They finished the night 18-for-43 from 3-point range.

Postgame Media Availability: Jan. 27, 2023

You Can Quote Me On That

"A difficult and ugly start to the game. I just think we've got to make a stand as a team and just decide that we're going to compete together at the start of games." -Carlisle

"It's on the starters, man. It really is. We can try to point fingers here and there. Our second unit I think has done a great job (this season) of keeping us in games and getting us back, but the starters have got to come out with a better sense of urgency. This time of year, you're supposed to have that." -Turner on Indiana's slow starts

"When we get out and run and play with pace, we're pretty good. When we can't get a stop and play in the half court, you see what happened in the first half." -McConnell on what changed in the second half

"They're a very disciplined team full of structure from top to bottom...They know exactly what they want to do offensively. Defensively, they're going to get down and guard you. And they have guys on their roster that abide by those principles. You have to give credit where credit's due -- those guys are champions. They've been there before (and) won there before." -Turner on why the Pacers have struggled against Milwaukee

"I think the extended minutes obviously help, but I've just got to give my teammates credit. They're the ones that are telling me to be aggressive and look for my shot. When I do that, it opens up the pass and gets the ball moving. Just credit to the other guys that are out there with me." -McConnell on taking on more of a scoring role with starting point guard Tyrese Haliburton sidelined

"I feel like every game it's just coming along. Every game, I'm feeling better, physically and mentally. My ankle is doing much better, my shot is coming. Overall, I just feel better...You guys can see the different Chris Duarte from three weeks ago to now." -Duarte on feeling more comfortable after returning from an ankle injury in December

Stat of the Night

The Bucks scored 85 points in the first half, surpassing their own record for most points by a Pacers opponent over the first two quarters (they previously scored 83 against Indiana in Milwaukee on March 22, 2021). Milwaukee shot 63.5 percent from the field and went 13-for-24 (54.2 percent) from beyond the arc over the first two quarters.

  • The Pacers have now dropped 10 consecutive games against Milwaukee, the franchise's second-longest losing streak against an opponent since 2000-01. Indiana last beat the Bucks on Feb. 12, 2020 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
  • Nembhard returned to action after missing two games with a non-COVID illness. The rookie guard tallied nine points and four assists in 20 minutes off the bench.
  • Carter fouled out with 9:36 remaining in Friday's contest.
  • The Pacers have trailed by double digits in all 14 of their games in January. They are 4-10 in those games.
Up Next

Indiana travels to Memphis to take on Ja Morant and the Grizzlies on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 6:00 PM ET.


The Pacers welcome LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers to Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets >>