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Damian Lillard’s 35-point 1st half helps Bucks beat Pacers 109-94 without Giannis in playoff opener



Damian Lillard's 35-point 1st half helps Bucks beat Pacers 109-94 without Giannis in playoff opener

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Damian Lillard’s sensational begin ensured the Milwaukee Bucks would fare simply advantageous with out Giannis Antetokounmpo of their playoff opener.

Lillard scored all 35 of his points earlier than halftime and the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Indiana Pacers 109-94 on Sunday whereas Antetokounmpo watched from the bench.

“I don’t suppose that it’s all on me however I do know that I’ve obtained to be a bit of bit extra aggressive and I’ve obtained to step ahead a bit of bit extra assertively,” Lillard stated. “Within the playoffs … it’s about setting a tone. We’re going to see this crew a number of instances, and also you wish to set up your self, particularly on your private home ground. That was simply my mentality, to come back out and attempt to set the tone.”

The Bucks wanted Lillard to step up with out Antetokounmpo, whose return date is unsure as he offers with a strained left calf that additionally prompted him to overlook Milwaukee’s last three regular-season video games. Sport 2 of the playoff sequence is Tuesday in Milwaukee.

Lillard got here by by setting a Bucks document for factors in both half of a playoff recreation. He didn’t rating in any respect and tried solely 5 photographs within the second half because the Pacers targeted on slowing him down, however the injury was performed by that time.

“He’s obtained that prizefighter-like mentality,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers stated. “It’s virtually like he’s coaching for the combat. When the bell rings, he appears to be prepared.”

This was Lillard’s first postseason recreation since 2021. He spent his first 11 seasons with the Portland Path Blazers earlier than the Bucks acquired him in a commerce.

“The final two years, not being within the playoffs, it sucked,” Lillard stated. “Early holidays. Final yr, I went to Coachella. I ain’t by no means been in a position to go to Coachella. It’s taking part in within the playoffs yearly. Simply having that lengthy summer season, it was like, man, I used to be over that.”

Pascal Siakam had 36 factors and 13 rebounds for the Pacers, who hadn’t scored fewer than 99 factors within the common season whereas averaging a league-high 123.3 factors per recreation. The Pacers shot 8 of 39 from 3-point vary.

Indiana, which had received 4 of its 5 regular-season conferences with the Bucks, is making its first playoff look since 2020. The Pacers haven’t superior past the opening spherical since 2014.

“It’s simple to simply say we missed photographs and now we’re nervous or no matter,” stated Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton, who had 9 factors, eight assists and 7 rebounds. “No matter you all are going to run with, it doesn’t matter. I simply really feel like we missed photographs, on the finish of the day. The ball wasn’t hopping. They usually made photographs within the first half and that form of dug us a gap.”

Khris Middleton had 23 factors and 10 rebounds for the Bucks, whereas Bobby Portis added 15 factors and 11 rebounds.

Lillard had 19 factors within the opening interval, the very best first-quarter level complete by any participant in a playoff opener since no less than 1997. He had the very best first-half level complete for any participant in a postseason contest since Kevin Durant had 38 on the break for the Golden State Warriors in a 2019 first-round recreation with the Los Angeles Clippers.

He then obtained some assist from his teammates whereas taking a well-deserved breather. Milwaukee outscored Indiana 14-3 whereas Lillard was on the bench for practically the primary 5 minutes of the second quarter.

As soon as Lillard returned, he picked up proper the place he’d left off. He sank a 3-pointer whereas getting fouled and accomplished a four-point play to increase Milwaukee’s result in 65-35. The Bucks have been forward 69-42 at halftime.

“The primary half was embarrassing,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle stated. “No excuses. We’ve merely obtained to come back out higher. It was ugly, and all of us personal it.”

Indiana closed the third quarter with 9 straight factors to get Milwaukee’s lead right down to 83-71, however the Bucks regained management.

Jae Crowder and Malik Beasley made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to start out an 8-0 run that prolonged Milwaukee’s result in 99-77 with 8:10 left. Milwaukee stayed forward by no less than 14 the remainder of the best way.



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