Home and ‘hungry,’ Pacers seeking series lead over Giannis-less Bucks

By Thomson Reuters Apr 26, 2024 | 1:21 PM

Pascal Siakam’s blistering start to the postseason has enabled the upstart Indiana Pacers to wrest home-court advantage from the Milwaukee Bucks.

Siakam will look to remain hot on Friday when the sixth-seeded Pacers welcome the third-seeded Bucks to Indianapolis for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Siakam followed up his 36-point, 13-rebound performance in the Pacers’ 109-94 setback in the series opener on Sunday with 37 points, 11 boards and six assists in Indiana’s 125-108 triumph on Tuesday. He is the first NBA player to open the playoffs with consecutive performances of at least 35 points and 10 rebounds since Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain in 1967.

“We’ve got to be the hungry team,” Siakam said. “We’ve got to be the team that’s coming in and wanting to show something. That’s the attitude that we’ve got to have against those guys, because they’ve done it before.”

Siakam has done it before, too. He was a member of the 2019 Toronto Raptors’ title-winning team.

“His experience in the playoffs is so valuable,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said of Siakam. “He’s not a guy that’s going to get rattled by anything. Never has once since January, since we got him. He’s a guy that people confide in and look up to.”

Myles Turner collected 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three blocks to help even the series.

“I’m just excited to get back to Gainbridge (Fieldhouse),” Turner said. “It’s going to be a (heck) of an environment in there. I’ve been waiting a long time to give the home fans what they deserve. And I’m just really, really excited for that environment.”

Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard hopes to not be forced into hero mode in Game 3. He scored all 35 of his points in the first half in the series opener before scoring 26 of his 34 points over the first two quarters on Tuesday.

Bobby Portis recorded 14 points and 11 rebounds in Game 2. He added fuel to the fire, however, with his comments after the contest.

“I mean, just quite frankly, they’re frontrunners, bro,” Portis said of the Pacers. “Y’all can just tweet that or whatever it is, bro. When the (expletive is) going good, they laughing, clapping all that. When it’s going bad, they not saying nothing.

“So I think to answer that question, guys always feel good when they’re having a good game or hitting shots. I think that’s just human nature and basketball. … So yeah, they’re supposed to feel good. They were hitting shots. They game-planned really well, so yeah, they’re supposed to feel really good, of course. But Game 3 on the way Friday.”

Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo was officially ruled out by the Bucks on Friday due to his left calf injury. Antetokounmpo has missed six consecutive games.

Bucks coach Doc Rivers was optimistic about how Antetokounmpo looked in practice on Thursday, but the next chance for the two-time league MVP to take the court is Sunday night in Game 4.

Indiana exploited the interior on Tuesday with Antetokounmpo reduced to the role of a spectator. The Pacers held a 52-36 edge in points in the paint and shot a robust 55.6 percent from the floor.

Rivers didn’t have a final call on the status of forward Khris Middleton, who is officially listed as questionable.

Middleton missed practice Thursday due to a right ankle injury.

Middleton tweaked his leg in the opening quarter of Tuesday’s 125-108 loss in Game 2. He finished with 15 points, six assists and five rebounds in 36 minutes.

–Field Level Media