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Damian Lillard’s 35-point first half carries Bucks to Game 1 win



Damian Lillard's 35-point first half carries Bucks to Game 1 win

MILWAUKEE — With the clock winding down towards the top of the primary quarter, Bucks level guard Damian Lillard put an exclamation level on his Recreation 1 masterpiece.

With a crossover, he created house and stepped again right into a 28-foot 3-pointer, a classic transfer from Lillard to knock down a shot previous the outstretched hand of Pacers guard T.J. McConnell because the first-quarter buzzer sounded. Lillard then trotted down the courtroom, basking within the adulation of a sold-out crowd at Fiserv Discussion board.

“What time is it?” the general public handle announcer requested.

“Dame Time!” the gang roared.

“That is what y’all introduced me right here for,” Lillard yelled to the gang as he beat his chest.

With two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined by a calf pressure, Lillard carried the Bucks to a 109-94 victory over the Pacers on Sunday in Recreation 1 of their first-round playoff sequence. Lillard completed with 35 factors, all within the first half, to assist construct Milwaukee a halftime cushion that was by no means threatened.

“Within the playoffs, it is about setting the tone,” Lillard mentioned. “We’ll see this workforce a whole lot of occasions, and also you wish to set up your self, particularly on your private home flooring. That was my mentality, to come back out and try to set the tone in that means.”

Recreation 2 is Tuesday evening in Milwaukee.

Lillard’s 35 factors within the first half have been the second-highest complete by any participant within the first half of an NBA playoff recreation up to now 25 years, trailing solely Kevin Durant’s 38 factors in 2019, in keeping with analysis by ESPN Stats & Info. Lillard set a playoff profession excessive for factors in a half and scored extra factors than any Bucks participant in a primary half since Antetokounmpo within the 2021 NBA Finals.

“He carried us,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers mentioned. “He was unbelievable.”

Even with Lillard going scoreless within the second half whereas the Pacers compelled the ball out of his arms, his teammates have been capable of decide up the slack. Khris Middleton scored 23 factors on 9-of-14 taking pictures, whereas Bobby Portis added 15 factors and 11 rebounds.

Nevertheless it was the aggressive means Lillard got here out that helped carry the Bucks.

“I’ve seen that on tv rather a lot,” Middleton mentioned. “He got here out, threw the primary punch and actually obtained us off to a terrific begin with a terrific lead that lasted the entire recreation.”

Lillard almost matched Indiana (42 factors) within the first half because the Pacers, who completed second within the NBA in offensive effectivity throughout the common season, struggled to generate factors of their first playoff recreation. They missed their first 12 3-pointers, and their 42 factors have been their fewest in any half this season.

It was the primary time Indiana shot under 40% in a recreation this season.

Pascal Siakam scored 36 factors, however Tyrese Haliburton was restricted to 9 factors and 9 assists, whereas his teammates shot 9-of-26 off his passes.

“All people was lively, adopted the sport plan,” Rivers mentioned.

This was the tenth straight postseason loss for the Pacers, relationship again to the 2017-18 season.

“It is easy to simply say we missed photographs and now we’re nervous or no matter,” Haliburton mentioned. “No matter you all are going to run with, it would not matter. I simply really feel like we missed photographs, on the finish of the day. The ball wasn’t hopping. And so they made photographs within the first half and that form of dug us a gap.”

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was extra succinct.

“The primary half was embarrassing,” he mentioned. “No excuses. We have merely obtained to come back out higher. It was ugly, and all of us personal it.”

Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead within the sequence with out Antetokounmpo, who has not performed since April 9, when he strained his left calf. Rivers mentioned earlier than Recreation 1 that he didn’t have any readability on when Antetokounmpo could be able to play once more.

So the Bucks wanted this sort of efficiency from Lillard, who was traded from the Portland Path Blazers to Milwaukee every week earlier than the beginning of coaching camp. His first season in Milwaukee was crammed with ups and downs, adjusting to a brand new workforce and taking part in subsequent to a different famous person for the primary time in his profession. Lillard averaged 24.3 factors on 42% taking pictures (35.4% from 3) in 73 video games throughout the common season, a down yr by his lofty requirements.

However after getting by the common season, Lillard mentioned he felt the thrill this week of coming into his first playoff run with Milwaukee and an opportunity to compete for his first championship.

“The final two years not being within the playoffs, it sucked,” Lillard mentioned. “Early holidays. Final yr, I went to Coachella. I ain’t by no means been capable of go to Coachella.

“Simply having that lengthy summer season, I used to be over that. Having the ability to be in a playoff sequence on a championship workforce, championship group, realizing that we obtained a possibility for it, that was the factor I used to be wanting ahead to most.”

Info from The Related Press was used on this report.

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