Thursday, March 16 at 8:00 PM ET at Fiserv Forum
Game Recap: Pacers 139, Bucks 123
In March, statements are best made on the hardwood. And on Thursday at Fiserv Forum, the Indiana Pacers did just that.
If the Pacers (32-38) advance to the postseason, they will likely circle Thursday night’s victory over the Milwaukee Bucks (50-20) as their signature win.
Scoring a season-high 84 second-half points, the Pacers (32-38) beat the first-place Bucks (50-20), 139-123. The Pacers made 70.2 percent of their field goal attempts in the second half, including going 13 of 19 (68.4 percent) from 3-point range.
Indiana unleashed a 3-point barrage on the road, hitting 22 from beyond the arc total, while eight players finished in double-digit scoring.
Pacers rookie Andrew Nembhard led the charge by tallying 24 points -- including 21 in the second half -- while Aaron Nesmith made a career-high six 3-pointers en route to 22 points. Other Pacers scoring in double figures included Buddy Hield (20), T.J. McConnell (19), George Hill (15), Jalen Smith (14), Jordan Nwora (12) and Myles Turner (11).
McConnell also had 12 assists off the bench for his fifth double-double of the season.
The Pacers went 54-for-97 overall, including 22-for-46 from deep, while Milwaukee shot 52.8 percent from the field.
Two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks, which had seven players score in double figures, with 25 points and nine rebounds. Point guard Jrue Holiday was next for the Bucks with 19 points and 11 assists.
With the win, the Pacers are now just a half game back of 10th in the Eastern Conference standings. The top six seeds in the East will automatically make the playoffs while places seven through 10 will advance to the Play-In Tournament.
The Pacers have 12 games left on their schedule.
Indiana has now won five of their last seven games and snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Bucks. Prior to Thursday, the Pacers had never won at Fiserv Forum since it opened in 2018.
“I liked the way we kept our poise, maintained our aggression,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “The guys were animated in this game because of the environment, because of the opponent, and they really wanted to compete at a high level. We figured out the formula as the game went along. I'm just really proud of them.”
The Pacers win came despite playing without All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton who sprained his ankle in practice on Wednesday, and without injured standout rookie Bennedict Mathurin, who sprained an ankle last week.
Milwaukee led 64-55 at halftime despite Antetokounmpo playing just over 10 minutes due to foul trouble.
The Bucks shot the ball well off the tip, making four of their first five shots to lead 10-3 two minutes into the game. That lead then ballooned to 21-8 following an 11-5 run where five different Bucks players recorded a made basket.
Indiana was able to cut into the deficit thanks to a 7-0 scoring string midway through the first quarter, on five points by Hield, but the Bucks matched the Pacers nearly shot-for-shot in the final six minutes of the opening frame to lead 40-30. Hield accounted for 12 of the Pacers’ points in the first quarter.
Indiana’s bench guards stepped up big to start the second quarter, as Hill – who was traded from the Bucks to the Pacers in February – hit two 3-pointers and McConnell got a bucket to go to narrow it to 43-38 with 10 minutes left in the half.
With 7:58 on the clock, Antetokounmpo was called for his third personal foul and didn’t return before halftime.
A 6-0 Pacers run on two points each from Smith, Nwora – who was also traded from Milwaukee to Indiana this season – and McConnell tied the game at 44 with 7:18 left before intermission.
The teams kept it within three points until the Bucks scored eight unanswered points, on six straight from Khris Middleton, to hold a nine-point lead at the break.
Indiana nearly scored more points in the third quarter than the entire first half, shooting 73.1 percent from the field for 49 points in the period.
Milwauke built its lead up to 14 points midway through the third quarter thanks to a 10-1 run where Antetokunmpo scored six.
However, the Pacers battled back, as Nembhard and Nesmith each drained a pair of 3-pointers, and Smith also added a trey, to cut it to 90-86 with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
In the final 2:04 of the third quarter, the Pacers went on an 11-0 scoring spree – led by four points by Hill and a 3-pointer by Nwora – to lead 104-101 going into the final frame.
The Pacers’ 49 fourth-quarter points are the most for that period this season and ties the most points for any quarter for this season.
In the fourth quarter, Indiana used runs of 7-2 and 10-2 to build a 127-113 lead with 6:02 remaining.
Turner put the exclamation point on the game by following up a 3-pointer with a posterizing dunk over Antetokounmpo to push the Pacers ahead 136-120 with 2:13 on the clock.
From there, the Blue & Gold coasted to the win.
The Pacers outscored the Bucks 26-13 in fast-break points but were outscored 68-56 in the paint and outrebounded 44-42.
“It’s a big win, but you’ve got to keep things in perspective,” Turner said. “It’s a game-by-game basis. We’re at the end of the year here and know these games matter. These games count. That’s our mentality going forward. It’s a big win for morale, but the job is not finished. We still have a lot of climbing to do.”
Indiana will return home Saturday to host the Philadelphia 76ers at Gainbridge FIeldhouse.
Stat of the Night
Indiana drained 22 3-pointers in the game, one three short of tying the franchise record set on Oct. 29, 2022, against the San Antonio Spurs. Eight different players hit a 3-pointer for the Pacers.
Inside the Numbers
– The Pacers beat their previous season-high for made field goals by one by recording 54.
–Indiana achieved a season-high 36 total assists as a team, one better than their previous high.
– McConnell finished with a +/- of +36 for the game. He had 10 points and eight assists in the second half alone.
– Nembhard’s 24 points are the second most he’s scored in a game. He had 41 against the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 5.
– Hill scored a season-high 15 points and had a +/- of +26 off the bench.
– Hield scored 12 points in the first quarter, which is his 28th double-figure scoring quarter this season.
– Nwora has scored in double figures in nine straight games. He has only played 12 games with Indiana.
Postgame Media Availability: March 16, 2023
You Can Quote Me On That
“I'm not gonna make too much of this, but this is a team that won a championship two years ago. They had all three of their great players out there. To go toe-to-toe with them is meaningful. You know, it's not like winning a championship or anything like that, but the stage that we're at – as we're as we're rebuilding this thing – these small steps that continue to lead us in a good direction are extremely important. You don't know what it's like until you play or coach in this environment and you're looking down the barrel of Giannis and Holiday and Middleton. This is tough stuff here. I’m just really proud of the effort. I still think Milwaukee is probably the favorite to come out of the East along with Philly … who we play next.” – Carlise on the win
“Not a great first half, but a really special second half. Our level of aggression, our attitude, was much, much better just in terms of understanding how we needed to play to have a chance to hang in and get a win.” – Carlisle on adjusting in the second half
“This is our franchise's first ever win in this building, which speaks to how difficult it is to win here and has been ever since this place opened – how great a team they are. This was special to have an opportunity to break through with some of our younger players playing key roles in the game. It's a great win.” – Carlisle on the game
“The 3-point shot is such a potent weapon. If you're going to beat a team like Milwaukee, you've got to be making at least your share of them. But you need to have a balance.” – Carlisle on the stellar 3-point shooting
“I'm gonna be very disappointed if Myles’ dunk isn't on SportsCenter tonight. I mean, come on, man. This was spectacular.” – Carlisle on the poster dunk by Turner in the fourth quarter
“I just tried to be aggressive in transition, getting downhill all the way to the rim instead of settling for midrange shots. I just stayed aggressive and stayed confident in the second half and shots were falling from all three levels.” – Nembhard on his scoring performance."
“He set the tone. I’ve been signing his praises all year and I will continue to do so throughout his career. Andrew is a special player. He proves it every night that whatever we need from him – off ball, on ball – he can run a unit really, really well. I feel like people think he’s a combo guard, but I feel like he can run a unit. ... Everything we have asked from him this year’s he’s done. He’s guarded the best players on defense. He set the tone for us tonight.” – McConnell on Nembhard
“Having not won in this building ever, and not beaten them for a number of years, it felt good to come in here and see people play well and get a win. We can’t get too high or too low because we have Philly coming in on Saturday.” – McConnell on moving on to the next game
“I feel like it was a group thing, not just me. I always feel like, with the bench unit, when we’re down, our job is to come in and provide a spark. We did that tonight.” – McConnell on his performance and the bench
“It was big time. I had a lot of fun out there. It was great seeing all those guys I was with not too long ago, I spent a lot of time with them, but I was super happy we got that win. It’s big for me. I was able to play well with a lot of other guys. Guys stepped up and we had fun out there and got a big win against the best team in the league right now.” – Nwora on getting the win against his former team
“Having a presence. I think, first half, they hit pretty much every shot. We had no presence defensively and weren’t touching anyone. They were able to do what they wanted to do. We came in at halftime and said to take away things and be more physical and make guys make plays. I think that’s what we did.” – Hill on the team's adjustments in the second half
“I knew I was going to be open for a lot of open threes because of the way they’ve played me in the past. My mindset going into the game was to get them up early, see them go in and be aggressive from the 3-point line throughout the game.” – Nesmith on his career-high six 3-pointers made
“He’s a very poised basketball player. It’s hard to speed him up. When he plays at his own pace, he’s really special.” – Nesmith on Nembhard
“I know how much it means. I went out there with that mindset that I’m going to go out there and help get this one for Jordan and George.” – Nesmith on playing against a former team
– It was the first game for Hill and Nwora against the Bucks since they were traded to the Pacers before the deadline.
– Chris Duarte also did not suit up for Indiana due to an ankle injury.
Broadcast Information (TV and Radio Listings >>)
TV: Bally Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Pat Boylan (studio host)
The Pacers return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse to host Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, March 18 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets >>