NBA playoffs

Bench helps Pacers eliminate Bucks in Game 6


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Bench helps Pacers eliminate Bucks in Game 6

COMEBACK. The returning Bucks guard Damian Lillard dribbles the ball as Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard defends in Game 6.

Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Even with Damian Lillard returning for the Bucks, the Pacers close out the series convincingly behind their bench mob

Obi Toppin scored 21 points and TJ McConnell added 20 as the Indiana Pacers eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks with a 120-98 victory in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference first-round series in Indianapolis on Thursday, May 2 (Friday, May 3, Manila time).

Toppin contributed 8 rebounds and McConnell had 9 assists as the sixth-seeded Pacers enjoyed a decisive 50-10 edge in bench points to record a 4-2 win in the best-of-seven series.

“Our bench has been great all season long, appreciate this guy (McConnell) for that,” Toppin said. “… Everybody on our team knows their job, and we just give 110 percent.”

Indiana advanced to the second round to face the second-seeded New York Knicks, who eliminated the seventh-seeded Philadelphia 76ers with a 118-115 win on Thursday. 

Game 1 is scheduled for Monday, May 6, in New York.

Pascal Siakam scored 19 points, Tyrese Haliburton collected 17 points and 10 assists, and Aaron Nesmith had 15 points to send the Pacers to their first playoff series win since 2014.

“Lot of respect to Milwaukee’s team,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “… To knock them out is difficult. It is really difficult. Congratulations to our guys. First time in 10 years our fans have had this kind of feeling.”

Indiana shot a robust 54.1% from the floor and held a 21-6 edge in fastbreak points to defeat Milwaukee for the fifth time in as many home games during the regular season and playoffs.

Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard scored 28 points in his return from a two-game absence caused by right Achilles tendinitis.

Brook Lopez scored 20 points and Bobby Portis added 20 to go along with 15 rebounds for the third-seeded Bucks, who made just 7-of-27 attempts (25.9%) from three-point range.

Milwaukee played the entire series without two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sustained a calf injury on April 9.

“Injuries are just part of it. I’ve had, personally, just a horrendous streak,” Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers said. 

“Joel (Embiid), all three years in Philadelphia, hurt. Last couple of years with the Clippers with Chris Paul and Blake (Griffin), hurt. I say this all the time, winning is incredibly hard. It takes 12-15 players turning themselves into one and buying in. Your staff being together as one. And then health – and you still may not win.”

Lillard drained a three-pointer to help Milwaukee bolt out to a 13-6 lead before Indiana scored 23 of the game’s next 29 points. 

The Pacers extended their advantage to 59-45 in the last minute of the first half when Toppin converted an alley-oop pass from Haliburton.

The Bucks trimmed the deficit to 85-78 with 1:05 left in the third quarter before Indiana answered by scoring the next 11 points. McConnell had a driving layup and two three-pointers during that run.

Milwaukee pulled within 14 points before the Pacers countered with six in a row, capped by Ben Sheppard’s 3-pointer with 8:07 remaining in the fourth quarter. The outcome was not in doubt the rest of the way. –

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