Giannis pours in 50 points to lead Bucks past Pacers 128-119

MILWAUKEE – Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a season-high 50 points, two off his career high, and pulled out 14 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the Indiana Pacers in a 128-119 skid on Tuesday night.

The Bucks (36-23) swept the Pacers’ four-game season streak and posted eight straight wins over their Central Division opponent.

Antetokounmpo, who sat out of Milwaukee’s loss to Portland on Monday night due to left ankle pain, showed no ill effects as he racked up 12 points in the first quarter, including a pair thundering dunks and a 3-pointer.

“I felt much better,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was rested.”

Antetokounmpo set a career high with his seventh game of 40 points of the season and scored 50 points for the first time since the momentous title game in the NBA Finals last season against Phoenix, which gave the Bucks their first championship in 50 years. It was the fourth 50-point game of his nine-year career, including the playoffs.

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The NBA Finals MVP shrugged off that feat.

“Obviously it’s a nice feeling to have 50, you’ll always remember that, but I care about winning. I want to win games,” Antetokounmpo said. “We have another on Thursday. We’ll try to finish and go to the All-Star break on a high. As long as we win, I’m fine. You do whatever it takes. If you’re thinking let me get to 50, let me get mine, it doesn’t work that way. You need to focus on winning games.

Milwaukee bounced back from back-to-back double-digit losses to hand Indiana (19-40) its seventh straight loss.

Antetokounmpo scored 12 points in the first quarter, six in the second, 13 in the third and 19 in the final period. He shot 17 of 21 from the field and 14 of 18 from the foul line.

“He’s well positioned and has good pace on the free throw line,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. great to see him again.”

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It’s only the 12th time in NBA history that a player has scored 50 or more points on 80% shooting or better.

“He makes it look so easy,” said teammate Jordan Nwora.

Both teams had only 10 players available due to injuries.

Buddy Hield scored a season-high 36 points and Tyrese Haliburton had 17 points and eight assists for Indiana.

“We’re in a tough time right now,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

Haliburton said the Pacers battled through the game but just couldn’t overcome Antetokounmpo’s dominating performance.

“He made it difficult for us,” Haliburton said. “He’s a filler.”

The Bucks led 34-27 after the first quarter before the Pacers took a short-lived lead midway through the second. A pair of 3-pointers by reserve guard Lindell Wigginton sparked a 12-2 push that extended the lead to double digits. Milwaukee led 69-63 at halftime, punctuated by Antetokounmpo’s 18 points.

Milwaukee built a pair of nine-point leads in the third but couldn’t shake the Pacers. When Indiana closed again in the fourth, Antetokounmpo swept a 3 and added a pair of free throws after a clear lane foul and Milwaukee eventually increased their lead to 14 before holding the Pacers on the stretch.

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ADVICE

Pacers: G Chris Duarte (sore left big toe), F Isaiah Jackson (sprained right ankle), G Malcolm Brogdon (sore right Achilles) and C Myles Turner (left foot problem) all sat out. … Haliburton didn’t attempt a shot from the field until he drove a 3-pointer about four minutes into the second quarter. … Scored 13 points on nine Milwaukee turnovers in the first half. … Keifer Sykes had 10 points off the bench. … Lance Stephenson was flagged for a flagrant 1 foul after hitting Antetokounmpo in the face while battling for a loose ball. … Jalen Smith committed a foul playing only 17 minutes.

Bucks: G Wesley Matthews did not play with right toe pain and G George Hill missed his eighth straight game with a neck problem. … G Grayson Allen is out with pain in his left hip. … Wigginton scored a career-high 12 points, surpassing his previous mark of 11 set the night before. … Serge Ibaka, who started in place of Antetokounmpo on Monday, scored nine points in 24 minutes in his second game for Milwaukee after being acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers.

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HIGH OVER HALIBURTON

Carlisle spoke enthusiastically about Haliburton, acquired by the Pacers in a trade with Sacramento on Feb. 8.

“Everything about him has impressed me. His abilities on the ground are tremendous. They are diverse. He has an aura of natural leadership around him. His wisdom and presence are beyond his years. He doesn’t step on the ground like a 21-year-old. He walks out there like a guy who is a multi-year veteran in this league,” Carlisle said.

Budenholzer added his own praise for Haliburton, who is averaging 14.6 points per game. “He’s an impressive young player,” Budenholzer said. “He has impressive composure and confidence.”

FOLLOWING

Pacers: Host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

Bucks: Host the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

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