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Pacers burst for 47 in 3rd, maintain dominance over Bucks

All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton aimed to emphasize that Indiana’s triumph against Milwaukee wasn’t a coincidence.

Therefore, on Wednesday night, the up-and-coming young star ensured it – once more.

Haliburton amassed 31 points and 12 assists, contributing to a 47-point third quarter that propelled the Pacers past the Bucks with a 142-130 victory, marking their fifth consecutive win. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, it was Haliburton’s 18th game with at least 20 points and 10 assists, tied for the most by a Pacers player in a season.

“I feel that as a young group, when you face formidable teams, you strive to prepare as best as possible,” Haliburton expressed. “Yet, I believe that part of the growth of this group is maintaining that competitive spirit and enthusiasm for games not involving the Bucks.”

This season, the series has been one-sided. Only two days after interrupting Milwaukee’s 15-game home-court winning streak, the Pacers launched a 21-6 run at the start of the second half and never trailed again. The Pacers hold a 4-1 record against the Bucks this season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo achieved 26 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists for Milwaukee, narrowly missing his fourth triple-double this season. Damian Lillard contributed 23 points and five assists, while Khris Middleton overcame a sprained wrist and sore knee to add 19 points and seven assists.

For the Bucks, the series has been replete with frustration.

The Central Division rivals have become quite acquainted, clashing five times in 54 days, including the in-season tournament semifinal in Las Vegas. In four games, combined scoring totals of at least 247 points have been produced.

“I believe the disheartening aspect is that we are far superior to what we have exhibited in the games against them,” Lillard stated. “I also don’t view it as merely the regular season. We were eager to claim victory in these games.”

The series wasn’t only defined by the final outcomes; it also became impassioned and, at times, contentious.

A disagreement over a missing game ball led to a peculiar postgame scene in December when Antetokounmpo dashed towards the Indiana locker room. Bucks forward Bobby Portis was ejected from one game, and in Las Vegas, Haliburton drew the ire of some by emulating Lillard’s wrist gesture after sinking a late 3-pointer, as the Bucks were on the brink of elimination.

The ultimate regular-season game in this series only added more intensity.

Indiana fans repeatedly counted the seconds Antetokounmpo took for free throws, the Milwaukee bench received a technical in the third quarter, and Lillard and Bennedict Mathurin were engaged in a conversation between the third and fourth quarters. Mathurin accumulated 16 points.

Then, in a foul-filled fourth quarter, after Pacers swingman Buddy Hield lobbed a pass off the backboard to a trailing Isaiah Jackson for a dunk, making it 118-100 with 9:41 to play and following a Milwaukee timeout, Antetokounmpo was forcefully knocked down. Players congregated near the basket, and after an official review for a hostile act, Milwaukee rookie Andre Jackson Jr. and Obi Toppin were both assessed technical fouls.

However, the game’s turning point was Indiana’s third-quarter outburst.

Milwaukee emerged from a seesaw first half with a 68-66 lead, but the Pacers initiated a 21-6 run in the second half, extending the lead to 113-97 after three quarters, and the Bucks couldn’t narrow the gap to less than 10 for the remainder of the game.

“I’d say we did a commendable job of buckling down and getting stops when necessary,” Haliburton remarked. “When we engage in transition, we pose a formidable challenge to any team.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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