Unable to string together a complete comeback down the stretch, the Bucks fell by a score of 104-99 to their divisional foes Indiana Pacers.
Milwaukee sliced into the score numerous times in the final minutes, but was unsuccessful in pulling even.
A key turning point came with under four minutes remaining when Jabari Parker failed to flush a dunk attempt, turning the ball over to Indiana. The Pacers took advantage of the Bucks’ mistake, converting it into a four-point swing on the other end, putting them up nine.
The Bucks would chip their way back into contention for victory, as a breakaway dunk by Khris Middleton trimmed the Pacers lead to just five. But a foul by Miles Plumlee on the ensuing possession on Monta Ellis with 37.1 seconds left swung momentum back into Indiana’s hand. The former Buck would split the pair of free throws, putting the Pacers up by six, 100-94.
As was the microcosm throughout the night, the Bucks weaved their way back into the realm of victory by scoring on two consecutive possessions, as an Antetokounmpo basket followed by a Jerryd Bayless and-1 cut the Indiana lead to just 102-99.
Paul George was then sent to the line with 14.9 seconds left and was provided a chance to ice the game. However, he was unable to convert on both attempts, leaving hope for the Bucks to complete their comeback. However, a Khris Middleton three failed to fall coming out of a Milwaukee timeout and Indiana controlled the rebound, earning the victory.
Despite the road win, Pacers players expressed concerns with how they finished the game.
“We’ve just got to execute down the stretch and make our free throws,” guard Rodney Stuckey said. We missed a couple of free throws down the stretch that would have sealed the deal. We’ve got to make our free throws.”
Head coach Jason Kidd attributed failure to stay ahead of the ball along with inconsistency on the offensive end as some of the reasons the Bucks fell tonight.
“Our defense couldn’t keep the ball in front of us,” Kidd said. “Indiana is a team that is going to make you play one way and they are going to make you pay for it if you don’t take care of the ball or make shots. In the first half, we didn’t do either. We didn’t make shots or play defense.”
The Bucks seemed stagnant on ball movement throughout the night, generating only 14 assists compared to Indiana’s 28. Khris Middleton, who led Milwaukee in scoring with 23 points, stated the need to be more fluid in the passing game.
“We can’t be playing one-on-one,” said Middleton. “[We] just have to move the ball side-to-side, play with each other and try to find the best shot.”
Greg Monroe, who contributed with 13 second-half points, noted the Bucks’ inability of reeling in defensive rebounds as a reason to blame for the loss.
“We gave up too many second chance points,” Monroe said. “They got a lot of extra possessions and defensively we had a couple of breakdowns. We just have to be better coming down the stretch.”
Jabari Parker had yet another respectable performance, contributing in the box score with 18 points. He has now scored 18 plus points in five of his last seven games and seven times this season. When asked about Parker’s development of adding in a quick first step to his game, Jason Kidd praised his comfortableness on the floor.
“His confidence has grown since the All-Star break,” said Kidd. “For him, it’s just being on the floor getting minutes and feeling comfortable. He had a slow start tonight and he missed a couple of shots early. For a young player, he kept fighting and ended up getting into what I would say was a quiet 18 points.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 22 points and has now scored 20 plus points in 15 games this season. He also went 8-for-8 from the free throw line, improving from a 4-for-11 performance Monday night against Houston.
Jordan Hill had a team-high 19 points to partner seven rebounds and an assist. His 19 points were one point shy of tying his season high of 20 points, a mark he has achieved several times.
Paul George aided in the effort by reeling in a game-high 10 rebounds along with 15 points. It was George’s eleventh 15-point, 10-rebound performance of the year.
Level scoring throughout the lineup was key to the Pacers victory, as seven players (Monta Ellis, Paul George, Myles Turner, Ian Mahinmi, George Hill, Jordan Hill and Rodney Stuckey) mounted double-figure points on the night. This was only the second time that Indiana has had seven players hit the double figure mark, with the last one coming in Portland on Dec. 3.
The Bucks home stand continues Friday against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, followed up by a Sunday matinee matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They then travel to Chicago to take on the Bulls and return to Milwaukee on March 9 to face the Miami Heat.