The reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks conclude a three-game road swing on Monday when they visit the Indiana Pacers.
Milwaukee looks to close its road trip with a winning record, rebounding from a loss on Thursday in Miami with a 121-111 defeat of San Antonio on Saturday. Khris Middleton led the way against the Spurs with a season-high 28 points.
Middleton became the franchise’s 10th-highest scorer all-time in the process.
All five Milwaukee starters and George Hill off the bench scored in double figures, including 16 apiece from Pat Connaughton and Jrue Holiday. Both connected on three 3-point attempts to pace the Bucks to a 15-of-35 night from beyond the arc.
The balanced scoring on Saturday marked a return to Milwaukee’s championship form of 2020-21, when the Bucks led the NBA in points per game (120.1). In Miami, Milwaukee managed just 95 points and was blown out by 42 points in what Middleton called “just a terrible night.”
“You go through that at times. It’s just how you adjust and respond to that,” he said, per the Journal Sentinel. “Guys came in and we played hard. The young guys stepped in. Pat made huge shots for us in that fourth quarter when things got a little tight.”
Indiana got its huge shots primarily from the free-throw line in overtime of its 102-91 defeat of Miami on Saturday. Chris Duarte and Malcolm Brogdon combined to go 9-of-9 from the charity stripe, and Domantas Sabonis made the Pacers’ only two field goals in the extra frame.
It was enough to push Indiana to its first win of the season.
The Pacers went to overtime a night earlier in Washington and gave up a six-point lead in the extra frame before losing, 135-134. It marked the second one-point loss in a two-game road set to open the campaign for Indiana after it dropped a 122-121 decision at Charlotte on Wednesday.
“This is actually more Pacers basketball,” Brogdon told the Indianapolis Star after his 18-point, 14-rebound performance on Saturday. “The defense and the grind-it-out basketball (is) what this state expects. That’s what these fans expect. That’s what (Pacers coach Rick) Carlisle expects.”
Saturday was Indiana’s first regular-season home game with a capacity crowd since the hiatus during the 2019-20 season due to COVID-19. Carlisle — coaching the home team in Indiana for the first time since 2007 — said in his postgame press conference that “the home crowd has an ability to make it tougher on the road.”
The audience and heightened defensive aggression will both try to slow high-scoring Milwaukee on Monday.
A high-intensity defensive effort on Saturday saw Indiana limit Miami to just 35-of-91 shooting from the floor and 9-of-33 from 3-point range. It marked a dramatic turnaround from the Pacers’ first two games, and helped Indiana weather its own offensive struggles in an eight-point third quarter.
Despite its shooting woes, Indiana had five players score in double figures on Saturday, including the rookie Duarte with 19 points. He has hit for at least 15 in each of his first three professional games.
Sabonis recorded his second double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds.