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Damian Lillard’s 35-point first half carries Bucks to Game 1 win

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Damian Lillard's 35-point first half carries Bucks to Game 1 win
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MILWAUKEE — With the clock winding down towards the tip of the primary quarter, Bucks level guard Damian Lillard put an exclamation level on his Recreation 1 masterpiece.

With a crossover, he created area and stepped again right into a 28-foot 3-pointer, a classic transfer from Lillard to knock down a shot previous the outstretched hand of Pacers guard T.J. McConnell because the first-quarter buzzer sounded. Lillard then trotted down the court docket, basking within the adulation of a sold-out crowd at Fiserv Discussion board.

“What time is it?” the general public deal with announcer requested.

“Dame Time!” the gang roared.

“That is what y’all introduced me right here for,” Lillard yelled to the gang as he beat his chest.

With two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined by a calf pressure, Lillard carried the Bucks to a 109-94 victory over the Pacers on Sunday in Recreation 1 of their first-round playoff sequence. Lillard completed with 35 factors, all within the first half, to assist construct Milwaukee a halftime cushion that was by no means threatened.

“Within the playoffs, it is about setting the tone,” Lillard stated. “We’ll see this workforce quite a lot of instances, and also you wish to set up your self, particularly on your property flooring. That was my mentality, to return out and attempt to set the tone in that means.”

Recreation 2 is Tuesday night time in Milwaukee.

Lillard’s 35 factors within the first half have been the second-highest whole by any participant within the first half of an NBA playoff recreation prior to now 25 years, trailing solely Kevin Durant’s 38 factors in 2019, in keeping with analysis by ESPN Stats & Info. Lillard set a playoff profession excessive for factors in a half and scored extra factors than any Bucks participant in a primary half since Antetokounmpo within the 2021 NBA Finals.

“He carried us,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers stated. “He was unbelievable.”

Even with Lillard going scoreless within the second half whereas the Pacers compelled the ball out of his palms, his teammates have been capable of choose up the slack. Khris Middleton scored 23 factors on 9-of-14 taking pictures, whereas Bobby Portis added 15 factors and 11 rebounds.

However it was the aggressive means Lillard got here out that helped carry the Bucks.

“I’ve seen that on tv lots,” Middleton stated. “He got here out, threw the primary punch and actually obtained us off to an awesome begin with an awesome lead that lasted the entire recreation.”

Lillard practically matched Indiana (42 factors) within the first half because the Pacers, who completed second within the NBA in offensive effectivity throughout the common season, struggled to generate factors of their first playoff recreation. They missed their first 12 3-pointers, and their 42 factors have been their fewest in any half this season.

It was the primary time Indiana shot beneath 40% in a recreation this season.

Pascal Siakam scored 36 factors, however Tyrese Haliburton was restricted to 9 factors and 9 assists, whereas his teammates shot 9-of-26 off his passes.

“Everyone was lively, adopted the sport plan,” Rivers stated.

This was the tenth straight postseason loss for the Pacers, relationship again to the 2017-18 season.

“It is easy to only say we missed pictures and now we’re nervous or no matter,” Haliburton stated. “No matter you all are going to run with, it would not matter. I simply really feel like we missed pictures, on the finish of the day. The ball wasn’t hopping. And so they made pictures within the first half and that sort of dug us a gap.”

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was extra succinct.

“The primary half was embarrassing,” he stated. “No excuses. We have merely obtained to return out higher. It was ugly, and all of us personal it.”

Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead within the sequence with out Antetokounmpo, who has not performed since April 9, when he strained his left calf. Rivers stated earlier than Recreation 1 that he didn’t have any readability on when Antetokounmpo could be able to play once more.

So the Bucks wanted this sort of efficiency from Lillard, who was traded from the Portland Path Blazers to Milwaukee every week earlier than the beginning of coaching camp. His first season in Milwaukee was full of ups and downs, adjusting to a brand new workforce and taking part in subsequent to a different celebrity for the primary time in his profession. Lillard averaged 24.3 factors on 42% taking pictures (35.4% from 3) in 73 video games throughout the common season, a down 12 months by his lofty requirements.

However after getting via the common season, Lillard stated he felt the joy this week of coming into his first playoff run with Milwaukee and an opportunity to compete for his first championship.

“The final two years not being within the playoffs, it sucked,” Lillard stated. “Early holidays. Final 12 months, I went to Coachella. I ain’t by no means been capable of go to Coachella.

“Simply having that lengthy summer time, I used to be over that. With the ability to be in a playoff sequence on a championship workforce, championship group, understanding that we obtained a possibility for it, that was the factor I used to be wanting ahead to most.”

Info from The Related Press was used on this report.

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