One Pacer returned to the lineup, but two more joined the ever-growing injury list on Saturday. In the end, Indiana simply didn't have enough firepower to keep up with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back.
Antetokounmpo tallied 26 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists in just 28 minutes as Milwaukee (9-3) handled the Pacers (7-6) on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 102-83.
"I thought our effort was there, but they did what you're supposed to do when a team is battling a situation like we're battling," Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. "You don't allow them confidence, you pressure them...and they did that."
Center Myles Turner returned to the floor for the first time since Oct. 30, but starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon (back) and backup T.J. McConnell (groin) both joined Jeremy Lamb, Edmond Sumner, and Victor Oladipo in street clothes after sustaining injuries in Friday night's loss in Houston.
Back in the starting lineup after an eight-game absence due to a sprained ankle, Turner gave Indiana an early spark. Turner drained a 3-pointer for the Pacers' first points of the night. A little later, he swatted Eric Bledsoe's shot in transition, then raced to the other end and made a nice dish to T.J. Warren for a corner three.
Warren scored 10 points in the opening frame and the Blue & Gold led by four 10 minutes in. But Milwaukee closed the quarter with eight straight points to take a 26-22 lead into the second quarter.
Antetokounmpo made his presence felt early in the second quarter. He scored five points in the first 1:34 of the second quarter — capped by a thunderous one-handed dunk over JaKarr Sampson and Goga Bitadze — before swatting away Sampson's shot into the stands on the other end.
The Bucks' defense stifled the Pacers throughout the second quarter, as the Blue & Gold were just 6-of-21 from the field in the frame. Milwaukee used a 12-1 run to extend its lead to as many as 15 points and took a 49-36 lead into the break.
The visitors maintained a significant lead for most of the third quarter, but Indiana closed the frame with an 11-4 charge to make the deficit 71-63 heading into the fourth.
Sterling Brown gave the Bucks some breathing room early in the final frame, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers from the left corner to push Milwaukee's lead back to double digits.
Another three by Donte DiVincenzo with 6:38 remaining extended the margin to 18 and effectively put the game away for the Bucks. Milwaukee led by as many as 25 points in the closing minutes.
A silver lining in the loss was the play of Turner, who looked solid in his return. The 6-11 center led the Pacers with 16 points, went 3-for-7 from 3-point range, pulled down 11 rebounds, and blocked four shots.
"I was just happy to get back out there," Turner said. "I didn't care how many points I scored or what happened tonight, I just wanted to get back out there with my guys. It's been a tough past couple of weeks. It's hard to just sit there and watch."
Warren added 15 points, Domantas Sabonis tallied 11 points and 14 rebounds, and Aaron Holiday finished with 11 points, four rebounds, and five assists in the loss.
Brook Lopez finished with 15 points, eight boards, and five blocks for Milwaukee. DiVincenzo added 14 points, while Brown chipped in 10 points, six rebounds, and four assists off the bench.
The shorthanded Pacers will travel to Brooklyn for a Monday night clash with the Nets, but then will have some time off to collectively heal. After Monday's contest, the Blue & Gold don't play again until Saturday, when they tip off a four-game homestand against Orlando.
Inside the Numbers
Turner's four blocks were a season high, with all four of his rejections coming in the first half. It was his 48th career game with four or more blocks.
Sabonis went just 3-for-13 from the field, but still managed to record his seventh straight double-double and his ninth of the season.
Milwaukee outscored Indiana 56-26 in points in the paint. The Pacers' previous season low for points in the paint was 46 against Washington on Nov. 6.
The Pacers went 12-for-34 from 3-point range, matching their season high for 3-pointers made. They also made 12 treys at Charlotte on Nov. 5 and the next night against Washington.
Antetokounmpo went 10-for-17 from the field and 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
Both teams had 15 turnovers, but the Bucks scored 23 points off Indiana's giveaways, while the Pacers only converted Milwaukee's mistakes into eight points.
You Can Quote Me On That
"Some of it was bad shooting. Some of that they force you into their bigs. They've got really good wing defenders...they made us work to get our shots off, shots that we really didn't have good looks all night tonight." -McMillan on Indiana's offensive struggles
"There's no excuses. We've been used to back-to-backs in this league. They were better than us tonight. We just have to learn from our mistakes and be better next time." -Sabonis
"Those guys play hard no matter who's out there for them. They're well coached. I think for our group to get enough separation there in the last 5-6 minutes, to have it to where we didn't have to play guys lots of minutes, it's a good win. It's a good sign for us." -Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer
"You have to hand it to our guards tonight, they were the head of the snake when it came to our game plan tonight. They did a great job in the pick-and-roll. We had a certain game plan, a certain way to guard their pick-and-roll. Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, everyone did a great job forcing their guards one way and continuing to chase them and not giving them easy mid-range shots." -Bucks center Brook Lopez
Stat of the Night
The Pacers shot just 32 percent from the field on Saturday, their lowest field-goal percentage of the season by a wide margin. Their previous season low was 40.6 percent against Cleveland on Nov. 1.
- The Pacers have now lost three straight and four of their last five games against the Bucks, including their last two meetings at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
- Two-way players Naz Mitrou-Long and Brian Bowen II joined the Pacers for Saturday's game after playing in a G League contest in Maine on Friday night. Mitrou-Long tallied two points, three rebounds, and three assists in 14:23 as the backup point guard. Bowen played the final 4:46 with the outcome decided.
- Former Pacers guard Travis Best (1995-2002) sat courtside at Saturday's game.
Indiana travels to Brooklyn to take on the Nets on Monday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 PM ET.
The Pacers return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to host Aaron Gordon and the Orlando Magic on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets »