T.J. McConnell
(Emil Vajgrt)

Game Rewind: Pacers 120, Bucks 98 (Game 6)

Thursday, May 2 at 6:30 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse

Game Recap: Pacers 120, Bucks 98

Game Recap

In the words of the late Hall of Famer Slick Leonard, "Boom Baby!" The Indiana Pacers are moving on to the next round of the NBA Playoffs.

The Pacers advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 120-98 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 on Thursday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. They did so in fitting fashion, outrunning an older and ailing Milwaukee squad and putting up points with a balanced offensive attack.

Indiana fumbled its first opportunity to close out the best-of-seven series in Game 5 on Tuesday night in Milwaukee, but took care of business on is home floor on Thursday to advance to the second round for the first time since 2014.

The Blue & Gold were flying all over the Fieldhouse in Game 6, knocking down shots, intercepting passes, and sending the sold-out crowd into a frenzy. The Pacers led the NBA in points, assists, and bench scoring in the regular season and once again got contributions from up and down the lineup on Thursday.

Six Pacers reached double figures in the victory, with reserves Obi Toppin and T.J. McConnell leading the way with the best postseason performances of their respective careers.

Toppin scored 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench, while McConnell tallied 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, nine assists and four steals.

Pascal Siakam added 19 points on 9-of-15 shooting, seven rebounds, and four assists, while All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists to go along with six rebounds.

It was a complete performance from the Blue & Gold, who never trailed over the final three quarters, shot 54.1 percent from the field and limited the Bucks to just 42.2 percent shooting.

"The thing that I love about our team is that we’re a true team," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. "We’ve got some great individual players, but we’re a group that needs each other. And I think that’s something that the people of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana can get behind."

The Pacers will advance to face the second-seeded New York Knicks in the next round, which is scheduled to begin on Monday, May 6. The Knicks won in Philadelphia on Thursday night to close out the 76ers in six games.

All-Star guard Damian Lillard returned for Game 6 for Milwaukee after missing the past two contests with a sore Achilles. Lillard scored 28 points, but it wasn't enough to lead the Bucks to victory.

Milwaukee remained without two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who did not play all series due to a left soleus strain.

The Bucks used an early 8-0 run to open up a 10-3 lead three minutes into Game 6, but the Pacers kept their composure.

Indiana outscored Milwaukee 26-9 over the next seven minutes to open up a 10-point lead. The highlight in that stretch came with just under three minutes remaining in the opening frame, when McConnell jumped a passing lane to intercept a Khris Middleton pass, starting a break where he dished to Haliburton for an emphatic right-hand slam.

After the dunk, McConnell then picked off the ensuing inbounds pass. He kicked the ball to Haliburton at the top of the key, who dished to a cutting Toppin attacking the rim. Toppin drew a foul and hit both free throws.

Indiana took a 33-24 lead into the second quarter. Haliburton tallied 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting and four rebounds in the first quarter, while Toppin tallied nine points off the bench.

The Bucks opened the ensuing frame with an 8-2 run, drawing within three following Middleton's three-point play. But the Pacers answered with a 10-2 surge of their own capped by Andrew Nembhard's 3-pointer that put Indiana back up by double digits with 7:51 remaining in the first half.

The Blue & Gold maintained a healthy lead for the reminder of the half, pushing it as high as 14 when Haliburton connected with Toppin on an alley-oop in the final minute. Indiana led 59-47 at the intermission.

The Bucks opened the second half with a 7-2 spurt to get back within seven, but five straight points from Siakam quickly pushed the margin back to double digits.

Myles Turner picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the half, forcing Toppin in to early action. The high-flying forward delivered 10 points in the third quarter, hitting two big threes and also throwing down a dunk in transition.

Indiana pushed the lead to 78-63 following Aaron Nesmith's three. Milwaukee then reeled off a 15-7 run, but the Blue & Gold closed the quarter with a flourish.

McConnell started the run with a layup with 58.7 seconds remaining. On the other end, Andrew Nembhard picked off a pass from Brook Lopez, then bullied his way through Malik Beasley in transition for a three-point play. After Middleton missed a three, the Bucks sagged off McConnell at the top of the key, so the veteran guard stepped up and knocked down the open shot to push the lead back to 93-78 entering the fourth quarter.

McConnell knocked down another trey — this one from the left corner — on the opening possession of the final frame to push the lead to 18.

He continued to make plays in the subsequent minutes, spinning around Lillard for a layup at 9:57, then weaving through the 6-10 Bobby Portis on the baseline and converting a fall-away jumper as the shot clock expired at 8:38.

That made it 101-84 and rookie guard Ben Sheppard added a three on the next possession to push the lead to 20.

“McConnell last game had a rough game," Carlisle said. "His bounce back today was absolutely phenomenal. I would say in this game he was the major difference-maker with defensive intensity full-court, he knocked in two or three threes, he got in some difficult hoops around the basket. The crowd was going crazy. That period late third, early fourth quarter, it was something else."

There was little drama in the final minutes, which turned instead into a celebration, with every key contributor getting their turn receiving a standing ovation from the crowd as Carlisle subbed them out one by one.

Nesmith scored 15 points for Indiana in the victory, while Nembhard tallied 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists.

Portis finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds for Milwaukee. Lopez added 20 points, while Middleton finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

The Pacers had been resilient all season, responding to tough losses with bounce-back performances. That held true in this series, as they twice lost by double digits only to win by double digits the next game. After a 115-92 loss in Game 5 on Tuesday, they didn't mess around on Thursday night.

"A lot of us had never been in that situation, in a close-out game," Haliburton said. "Teams are going to play desperate, they are going to play hard. That’s what they did in Game 5. As players, we felt like we were trying a little more not to lose than to win — if that makes any sense. We had to do a better job of being more aggressive, playing harder, and controlling what we can. I thought we did a better job of that today."

In the victorious locker room, Pacers center Myles Turner — the longest-tenured player on the roster in his ninth season and his sixth playoff appearance — reflected on what it means for the city to advance.

"I think the city deserves this," Turner said. "Obviously I’m excited, but I think this is more so about Indianapolis, Indiana fans. They’ve been waiting a long time, I think it was a decade, to get back to this (round). We don’t want to stop here. We still have a lot more work to do."

T.J. McConnell, Obi Toppin break down Pacers series win vs. Bucks

Inside the Numbers

Toppin's 21 points were a new postseason career high. His previous high was 18 for the Knicks last season against Miami on April 30, 2023.

McConnell set playoff career highs with both his 20 points and nine assists. He had scored 19 points for Philadelphia against Boston on May 7, 2018 and had eight assists in Game 4 against the Bucks on Sunday.

Haliburton recorded his third double-double of the series. He had another double-double in Game 2 and a triple-double in Game 3.

The Pacers had 33 assists on 46 field goals on Thursday. The Bucks had 19 assists on 35 field goals.

Indiana outscored the Bucks 60-46 in the paint and by 18 points from 3-point range (the Pacers were 13-for-40 from beyond the arc, while Milwaukee was 7-for-27).

Indiana Pacers Postgame Media Availability vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Game 6) | May 2, 2024

You Can Quote Me On That

“The difference in the series was pressure. It’s very difficult to get a group of guys to buy into 94-foot, full-court pressure on every possession that’s not a fastbreak. And our guys did it. Siakam was picking up full court, Toppin was doing it, everybody was doing it. That allowed us to maintain our pace. And we just felt that if we could keep pressure on them, we’d make it difficult.” -Carlisle on the key to the Pacers winning the series

"I thought everybody just played the right way. I thought Obi came in and played with unbelievable energy. T.J.’s energy was amazing…the bench’s energy was flowing the whole game honestly. At the end of the day, the two games we lost in this series, they dictated the pace and in the games we won we dictated it. We just knew we were going to come out, be aggressive. I think their switching kind of slowed us down in Game 5. We just didn't’ wait to see what they were going to do. It didn’t really mattered what they were going to do. We just attacked.” –Haliburton on the Game 6 win

“We have a great crowd. They just did a good job of rallying us, keeping us engaged. I think that our crowd has been second-to-none all year. We’ve talked about that throughout the series…I think just because of the pace that we play at when we’re at home, and guys are feeling good, we’re a really tough team to beat. I think it just all goes to pace. For some reason, you play faster at home. I think it's human nature to a point. I thought we did a good job of that.” Haliburton on the crowd and playing faster at home

"If I can be honest, I think our bench took a couple steps back competitive-wise and productivity-wise. I think tonight, all of us, just had a mentality of ‘we’re going to go out there and go to another level competitively,’ and that’s kind of the bench I saw all season. I’m happy for every guy that has come off the bench this season." -McConnell on the bench's big night

“I don’t really think there’s a lot of ego with our group…I don’t think we really deal with that a lot in our locker room. I think we do a great job of communicating more than anything. If we see one guy’s going, we try to go back to him. If we see one guy’s off, we try to give him energy. That’s what it’s about. Being a team. I think we’re the epitome of that. We have two All-Stars on our team, but we have guys that play above their role. That’s something that doesn’t happen a lot in this league.” -Turner on what makes this team successful

“Everybody just listens to each other. Whether you’re a starter, whether you are on the bench. Everybody is trying to get better out there and we are always trying to put each other in position to be successful.” –Toppin on the team

"I thought our guys learned an awful lot in this series. It’s hard to go through a playoff series against an experienced team like this as your first time in the playoffs. And we had a lot of guys that were first-timers. They learned the things that you need to learn along the way. The ability to win Game 2 and get homecourt advantage was obviously enormous." -Carlisle

"I felt like tonight was one of my better ‘let the game come to me’ games. I felt like I tried to force the issue (in) a couple of games. It really hasn’t worked out the way I’d like to. (Assistant coach) Lloyd Pierce just kind of said ‘let the game come to you. Get off the ball and it will find its way back.’ It did, so credit to my teammates." -McConnell on his performance

"The whole city and fanbase is behind Myles Turner. This is nine years. He’s never advance in the playoffs. And he was the foundation of this." -Carlisle on Turner

"I was very excited for our group and the city just because I’ve seen the highs and lows of this. I know the fans have seen the highs and lows of this over the past 10 years as well. To finally get a little bit of the fruit of your labor with this is incredible. We still have a lot of work to do, but for me personally, it means a lot to finally advance." -Turner on what it means for him personally to advance

Stat of the Night

The Pacers had the highest scoring bench in the NBA in the regular season and their second unit was dominant in a close-out game on Thursday. Indiana's reserves outscored the Bucks' bench 50-10 in Game 6, with Toppin and McConnell combining for 41.


  • Prior to Thursday, the last time the Pacers won a playoff series was in 2014, when they defeated Atlanta in the first round and Washington into the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
  • The Pacers finished the season 8-3 against the Bucks, going 4-1 against their Central Division rivals in the regular season and 4-2 in the postseason.
  • Indiana is now 3-0 in playoff series against Milwaukee, also knocking the Bucks out in the first round in 1999 and 2000.
  • Former Pacers guard Travis Best, who hit a game-winning 3-pointer in Game 5 against Milwaukee in 2000, "revved up" the crowd before Thursday's game.


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