The Indiana Pacers overcame the Milwaukee Bucks 128-119 on Thursday night, securing their place in the championship game of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament.
Haliburton Leads Pacers to Victory
Tyrese Haliburton was the standout performer for Indiana, hitting a crucial third 3-pointer in the final minute of the game.
Celebrating his success, Haliburton pounded his chest and declared, “It’s our time!” This sentiment encapsulated the spirit of the Pacers as they advanced to face the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night.
Haliburton finished the game with an impressive 27 points and 15 assists, leading his team with both skill and charisma. The Pacers showcased a balanced attack, with Myles Turner contributing 26 points, Obi Toppin scoring 14 on efficient 6-of-8 shooting, and valuable contributions from Isaiah Jackson and Bruce Brown.
Their offensive prowess has been a highlight throughout the tournament, averaging a remarkable 132.6 points, and maintaining an overall season average of 128.3 points per game.
Pacers’ Bench Proves Decisive
A critical factor in Indiana's victory was the performance of their reserves, who outscored Milwaukee’s backups 43-13.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle highlighted the significant impact of the bench, stating, “If you look at the plus-minus, it’s pretty obvious that those guys played a major role”. This contribution was particularly evident in the second quarter, where Bennedict Mathurtin and T.J.
McConnell led a 16-7 run, helping Indiana secure a lead and set a positive tone for the rest of the game. Haliburton also praised the depth of the team, remarking, “We truly have one of the best benches in the NBA, if not the best bench in the NBA”.
After trailing by three at the end of the third quarter, the Pacers launched a decisive 14-8 run in the fourth, ultimately clinching the game with a 21-13 run. This victory was a testament to their resilience and team effort.
For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo put up a valiant effort with 37 points and 10 rebounds, supported by Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton. Despite their season-high scoring in the quarterfinals, the Bucks fell short in the crucial moments, leaving Milwaukee coach Adrian Griffin to reflect on the learning experiences from both wins and losses.