Team play shines as Pacers take season series against Bucks, continue win streak
Tyrese Haliburton (31 points, 12 assists) is the star each game, but the Pacers are evolving as a team and showing there's a lot more to them — including toughness and grit. They've won five in a row.
After winning their last four games, including three on the road, the Indiana Pacers returned home for the next week consisting of five in a row at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. First up was the Milwaukee Bucks to complete a rare home-and-home against Giannis & Co.
Yes, them again.
It was the Pacers’ 34th game of the season, including the in-season tournament championship that doesn’t officially count in the record book, and five of them have come against the Bucks — a division foe and one of the powers in the Eastern Conference.
No, it’s not a rivalry. It’s too early for that. And that comes from games when it really matters — and the Pacers have been absent from postseason play since 2020.
Also, are there any true rivalries in the NBA anymore? That’s mostly been lost in the modern player-empowerment era. However, there is definitely some understandable bad blood that’s bubbled to the surface with such frequent meetings. The Pacers and Bucks squared off on Wednesday in back-to-back games and for the fourth time in less than a month.
It started with the Pacers upsetting the Bucks in a tournament semifinal game in Las Vegas — we all remember Tyrese Haliburton saying it’s ‘Tyrese Time’ — then it spilled into the next week when they met again in Milwaukee and there was a postgame fracas over the game ball.
After securing a road win in Haliburton’s home state on Monday 122-113, they followed it up with an even more impressive win on Wednesday in front of faithful Pacers fans.
They trailed by two points at halftime, then used a 47-point third quarter (their second-highest output of the season) to grow to double digits and they never trailed again in a 142-130 victory.
Haliburton, who’s from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, always gets up to play his hometown team. Even more so since he was unavailable for all four meetings last season. He set the tone, as he so often does, and paced the team with 31 points, 12 assists and 0 turnovers in 34 minutes.
“Just finally making some shots against them,” he said afterward. “I think guys did a good job of getting stops, playing in transition more and that benefitted us. And just being ready for what’s in front of us.
“It’s been interesting to see a team this many times and I think we’ve handled it the right way. Obviously there was the game in Milwaukee that got a little chippy and I thought we responded the right way. A lot of things said from both sides and we came out and were prepared for that.”
After dropping to .500 with a home loss to the Magic, the Pacers (19-14) have rattled off a season-best five consecutive wins and they’re doing it in different ways.
It starts defensively, where they’re holding teams to fewer points. They’re outrebounding opponents, going 3-1-1 on the glass over the last five games. And they’re not getting dominated on the paint as much as they used to, though they still are last in the league in that department.
More than anything, it’s not been a one-man show. Nine players in the 10-man rotation scored nine points or more and they improved to 10-2 this season when at least seven players reach double figures.
“We have great people that are really starting to understand the personal sacrifices that need to be made to have a successful team,” said head coach Rick Carlisle.