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INDIANAPOLIS – Just two games into the NBA season, the Indiana Pacers have already experienced the inevitable ebbs and flows of an 82-game grind.

After such a promising opening victory on Wednesday night, the Pacers (1-1) felt the other end of NBA life on Friday night in Milwaukee (2-0).

Poor on-ball defense led to the Bucks being in control for nearly all 48 minutes on Friday, as the Pacers lost, 118-101, to their Central Division foe.

“We never established that we could stop this team, keep them out of the paint, or keep them in front of us,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said after the loss. “They pretty much played in our paint all night long (and scored) 56 points. They had 11 offensive rebounds, so even when we got stops, they had second opportunities.

“Offensively, I thought we just had to be sharper. (We) only had 14 assists. There was no ball movement. (We) came down and took the first decent shot, as opposed to making the defense work.”

The Pacers jumped out to an 8-0 lead on Friday night, but things quickly went the other way.

An 11-0 run by the Bucks soon after gave them a lead they would not relinquish. Milwaukee led 62-53 at halftime and pushed that cushion to double digits throughout the entire second half.

All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo worked in the paint all night long, finishing with 29 points and 15 rebounds. Bucks forward Khris Middleton added 23 points as Milwaukee made 17-of-47 three pointers. The 47 three-point attempts were the most in Bucks’ franchise history.

With the Pacers turning in a defensive performance that was much different from their opening night victory over Memphis, they also struggled to maintain pace on the offensive end of the floor.

Misfiring on quality mid-range looks added to the Pacers’ growing deficit, along with going just 6-of-18 from behind the arc, and 2-of-12 by players not named Doug McDermott.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 25 points, on 10-of-23 shooting. Bojan Bogdanovic was 0-for-7 from the floor after leading the Pacers’ starters in Wednesday’s opener.

Indiana finished the night with just 14 assists, a number that is well below their nightly goal.

Three Pacers’ Takeaways:

Guarding The Greek Freak: With LeBron out of the East, the toughest individual matchup belongs to trying to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Pacers had some decent success last season in guarding the Greek Freak, thanks to Thaddeus Young. But that wasn’t there on Friday night. In general, the Pacers lack wing-type defenders to guard Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard or the abundance of wings in Boston. Not stopping the ball against Antetokounmpo and missing out on consistent rim protection led to the Bucks scoring 54 points in the paint. It’s crazy that the Bucks scored 118 points from three areas on the floor (behind the arc: 51, in the paint: 54, at the foul line: 13). The lack of on-ball defense from the bigger wing position is something that this team will fight all season long.

Shoot More 3’s? The Bucks have really changed their offensive approach this season under new coach Mike Budenholzer. They hoisted up 47 three pointers on Friday night, whereas the Pacers shot just 18 from behind the arc. For today’s NBA, Indiana is not one of the more rapid-fire shooting teams from long distance. They maintain a philosophy of taking the best shot, which drives analytics people crazy. It’s not likely to change too drastically under Nate McMillan. So that’s why the Pacers have to shoot it better from 3, when they do take those shots, and be a more efficient shooting team from inside the arc.

Central Division Foe: It’s very, very early in the NBA season. However, most figure the Pacers and Bucks to be two teams aligned pretty closely in the standings this year. So, Friday’s loss does put the Pacers on the wrong side of an early tiebreaker against their Central Division foe. These two teams will meet 3 more times this season. Remember how jumbled last year’s Eastern Conference was for the Pacers and the other teams fighting for home court in Round One of the playoffs? That’s why it is never too early to pay attention to these losses, when you are facing teams expected to be near the top of the conference.

 

Pacers Upcoming Schedule

-Nets (Saturday, 10/20)

-@Timberwolves (Monday, 10/22)

-@Spurs (Wednesday, 10/24)

-@Cavaliers (Saturday, 10/27)