After two encouraging victories over Eastern Conference defending champion Miami, the Indiana Pacers cratered against Milwaukee on Monday.
They’ll look to get back on track during a home game against the last-place Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
The Bucks didn’t have two-time reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetounmpo because of a sprained left knee. It didn’t matter, as Milwaukee scored 83 first-half points en route to a 140-113 romp over Indiana.
“Our urgency wasn’t there from the start. I think we had to come out and really establish ourselves on (the defensive) end of the floor, and we weren’t able to do that (Monday),” Pacers forward Doug McDermott said. “They hit a lot of shots — you’ve got to give them credit — but a lot of that was due to our effort and giving them some good looks.”
Indiana played without two starters – center Myles Turner (left-ankle sprain) and guard Malcolm Brogdon (sore lower back). It’s uncertain whether they’ll heal in time for Wednesday’s game.
Regardless of who plays, the Pacers have to show more spirit defensively. Milwaukee made 24 3-pointers, a record for an Indiana opponent.
“We didn’t play as hard as we could coming out of the gate,” guard Caris LeVert said. “You can attribute that to Myles (missing the game), you can attribute that to a lot of things. But I think each of us has to look in the mirror and ask what we could have done better.”
Indiana rolled to 137-110 win over the Heat on Friday, then pulled out a 109-106 overtime victory in Sunday’s rematch.
LeVert’s play since recovering from kidney surgery has been impressive. He’s averaging 14.8 points, four rebounds and four assists in 31.5 minutes per game during his first six games with the franchise. LeVert, acquired from Brooklyn, is shooting 37.9 percent from the field with Indiana and is still trying to regain his touch after being out for two months.
He said he isn’t worried about the team’s clunker in Milwaukee carrying over to the next game.
“We don’t lose confidence in one loss,” LeVert said. “Those guys shot the ball really well (Monday). We’ve got another game against Detroit in a couple days. That’s the beauty of the NBA.”
This is the second of three meetings between the Central Division rivals. Indiana won the first matchup on Feb. 11, 111-95, led by All-Star Domantas Sabonis’ 26 point and eight assists.
Detroit also is trying to bounce back from a loss after two victories. The Pistons defeated Toronto and Houston last week, then fell at home to Chicago 100-86 on Sunday.
The Pistons shot just 39 percent from the field in the latter game, including 16 percent on 3-point attempts.
“They really clogged the paint,” guard Frank Jackson said. “I think we missed some kickouts at times and tried to force some tough twos. That’s game-planning. We’ve got to do a better job of making the easy play.”
Detroit was outscored 54-41 in the second half.
“I don’t know what it was, but we lost that locked-in focus right before halftime,” coach Dwane Casey said. “The frustration set in, and then it turned into turnovers, and that’s when they took off.”
–Field Level Media