NBA playoffs

Though without ‘best player,’ Bucks trip Pacers as Damian Lillard takes over


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Though without ‘best player,’ Bucks trip Pacers as Damian Lillard takes over

TAKEOVER MODE. Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard (0) drives for the basket against Indiana Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard (2) in the in the second quarter during Game 1 of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Fiserv Forum.

Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Damian Lillard unloads all of his 35 points in the first half to lead a Bucks side missing two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to a rousing Game 1 win

Damian Lillard scored all 35 of his points in the first half to fuel the host Milwaukee Bucks to a 109-94 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series on Sunday, April 21 (Monday, April 22, Manila time).

Lillard made 11 of 24 shots from the floor and 6 of 11 from three-point range for the Bucks, who outscored the Pacers 39-21 in the second quarter. Milwaukee hosts Indiana in Game 2 on Tuesday.

“It’s a long series. It’s only one game out of a possible seven,” Lillard told TNT. “Every game is going to be a different game, but I thought we did a great job of setting the tone (of) how we needed to without our best player.”

Khris Middleton collected 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Bobby Portis added 15 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out after starting in place of Giannis Antetokounmpo (left calf). Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA MVP, has sat out the team’s past four games.

“I was able to knock a couple down early in the second half to help balance the game a little bit,” said Middleton, who scored 15 of his points in the second half.

Pascal Siakam recorded 36 points and 13 rebounds for the Pacers, who missed their first 14 attempts from three-point range and finished 8-of-38 from beyond the arc. Myles Turner added 17 points and 8 rebounds, while T.J. McConnell had 10 points off the bench.

Tyrese Haliburton made a long jumper to trim Indiana’s deficit to 20-19 in the first quarter, before Malik Beasley drained a three-pointer and Pat Connaughton converted a four-point play. Lillard capped his 19-point first quarter with a three-pointer at the buzzer.

The Bucks turned it on in the second quarter. Jae Crowder made a layup after a defensive breakdown by Indiana to cap a 10-0 run and give Milwaukee a 44-23 lead with 7:37 left in the first half.

A rested Lillard returned to the court with a vengeance. He drilled three-pointers on consecutive possessions before converting again from long range and adding a layup to extend the Bucks’ advantage to 58-29 with 3:02 left in the second quarter.

Lillard converted a four-point play to extend Milwaukee’s lead to 65-35 with 1:23 remaining before adding a pair of free throws to cap his 35-point performance in the first half.

“First half was embarrassing. No excuses. We simply have got to come out better,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

The Bucks’ 27-point halftime lead was trimmed to 12 after the Pacers capped the third quarter with a 9-0 run. Milwaukee, however, regained its comfortable advantage by going on a 16-6 run to start the fourth quarter, capped by three-pointers from both Crowder and Beasley and a midrange jumper from Middleton. –

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