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Damian Lillard's 35-point 1st half helps Bucks beat Pacers 109-94 without Giannis in playoff opener

Sun, Apr 21, 2024
NBA News (AP)

Damian Lillard's 35-point 1st half helps Bucks beat Pacers 109-94 without Giannis in playoff opener

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Damian Lillard scored all 35 of his points before halftime and the Milwaukee Bucks withstood the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo to defeat the Indiana Pacers 109-94 on Sunday in their Eastern Conference playoff opener.

The Bucks needed Lillard to step up without Antetokounmpo, whose return date is uncertain as he deals with a strained left calf that also caused him to miss Milwaukee's final three regular-season games.

With Antetokounmpo watching from the bench, Lillard came through by setting a Bucks record for points in either half of a playoff game.

Pascal Siakam had 36 points and 13 rebounds for the Pacers, who hadn't scored fewer than 99 points in the regular season while averaging a league-high 123.3 points per game. The Pacers shot 8 of 39 from 3-point range.

Indiana is making its first playoff appearance since 2020 and is seeking to get beyond the opening round for the first time since 2014.

Khris Middleton had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Bucks, while Bobby Portis added 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Game 2 is Tuesday in Milwaukee.

Lillard had 19 points in the opening period, the highest first-quarter point total by any player in a playoff opener since at least 1997. He had the highest first-half point total for any player in a postseason contest since Kevin Durant had 38 at the break for the Golden State Warriors in a 2019 first-round game with the Los Angeles Clippers.

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He then got some help from his teammates while taking a well-deserved breather. Milwaukee outscored Indiana 14-3 while Lillard was on the bench for nearly the first five minutes of the second quarter.

Once Lillard returned, he picked up right where he'd left off. He sank a 3-pointer while getting fouled and completed a four-point play to extend Milwaukee's lead to 65-35. The Bucks were ahead 69-42 at halftime.

The Pacers made a game of it in the second half as they finally shut down Lillard, who shot 0 for 5 after halftime. Indiana closed the third quarter with nine straight points to get Milwaukee's lead down to 83-71.

But the Bucks regained control from there.

Jae Crowder and Malik Beasley made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to start an 8-0 run that extended Milwaukee's lead to 99-77 with 8:10 left. Milwaukee stayed ahead by at least 14 the rest of the way.



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