Work in Sports
INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The Milwaukee Bucks were red-hot and the Indiana Pacers lost their cool.
The Bucks shot better than 60 percent from the field in the first half and won a playoff game for the first time in 10 years with a convincing 104-91 victory over the Pacers, who squandered the best home-court advantage in the NBA.
Ray Allen and Sam Cassell scored 20 points each and Tim Thomas added a playoff career-high 19 for Milwaukee, which ended an eight-game postseason losing streak dating to May 1, 1990, when it beat Chicago in a first-round series.
"It's small steps for this franchise," Allen said. "My first couple of years we didn't make the playoffs. Then we made the playoffs but never won a game. Now we have a win."
The Bucks shot 53 percent (41-of-77), got 44 points from their bench and turned the entire fourth quarter into a scrimmage.
They thoroughly frustrated the Pacers, who saw Austin Croshere lose his temper in the second quarter and Rik Smits and Reggie Miller receive technicals in the third period.
The Bucks were swept by the Pacers in the first round last year and were not given much of a chance against top-seeded Indiana.
But they were a play or two away from pulling the upset in Game One and dominated the Pacers tonight to draw even in the Eastern Conference matchup.
"I am so proud of the way my players played, both mentally and physically," Bucks coach George Karl said. "We shot better, we passed better and we defended better."
Croshere scored 16 points for the Pacers, who were a league-best 36-5 at Conseco Fieldhouse during the season. However, one of those losses was a 105-84 setback to Milwaukee on March 23 that strongly resembled this game.
"Anytime you work 82 games to gain the home-court advantage and you lose it that fast, that's the nature of the business," Pacers forward Jalen Rose said. "We've got to find a way to respond. ... This is going to show what we're made of."
"If we are shooting the ball good we can beat a lot of teams," said Cassell, who added eight assists.
Game Three of the best-of-five series is Saturday at Milwaukee, where the teams split two games during the regular season.
"We've got our work cut out for us in Milwaukee," Cassell said.
"I know they are coming in with their guns loaded. We've just got to put the bullet-proof vests on."
Thomas led a strong showing by the bench. Scott Williams scored 15 points and fellow reserve Vinny Del Negro added 10, all in the second quarter. All-Star forward Glenn Robinson was barely needed as he scored 11 points.
The smaller Bucks stood up to the Pacers. Center Ervin Johnson grabbed 12 rebounds amid a pair of scuffles and forward Darvin Ham blocked four shots.
"They embarrassed us," Pacers coach Larry Bird said. "We played with no force. We weren't physical at all."
Meanwhile, Indiana shot just 39 percent (31-of-80). Rose and All-Star guard Reggie Miller, who each averaged better than 18 points during the season, had terrible games. Rose scored 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting and Miller had 10 on 4-of-12.
The Bucks never trailed, bolting to a 21-10 lead as Allen capped a 9-0 run with a 3-pointer at the 4:39 mark of the first period.
They shot 71 percent (15-of-21) in the quarter and opened a 35-19 advantage as Williams and Thomas provided a big boost with seven points apiece off the bench.
"We tasted blood early and that lit a fire in our eyes and we just didn't want to let up," Thomas said.
Jumpers by Cassell and Del Negro opened the second quarter and quickly built the lead to 20 points. The Pacers got no closer than 18 points until garbage time and their frustration showed late in the period, when Croshere hammered Johnson underneath.
Johnson made 1-of-2 free throws and Thomas added two 45 seconds later to give Milwaukee its largest lead of the first half at 61-34 with 1:04 left.
Indiana made the final two baskets of the period but that only brought its first-half shooting up to 33 percent (14-of-42).
Milwaukee shot a blistering 60.5 percent (26-of-43) After Mark Jackson opened the third quarter with a runner, the Bucks continued to pour it on. Allen's 3-pointer and a thunder dunk by Ham capped a 13-3 burst and widened the lead to 73-43 with 8:10 remaining.
That basically was it as Indiana unraveled over the rest of the period. With 7:38 left, Smits threw a hard elbow at Johnson and was ejected, with Johnson receiving a technical for retaliating.
"He grazed me, you could say across the face, my neck or whatever you want to call it," Johnson said. "I know that's part of the game but I don't think some of that is necessary. I could see if he was trying to box me out or something. Maybe he was upset because of the scoreboard."
Replays showed Smits appeared to throw a hand but perhaps not a punch, which would mean an automatic one-game suspension.
"I'll be totally shocked if he's not suspended," Karl said. "He shouldn't be suspended from one game but from two. That elbow was totally flagrant."
"He's not going to miss any games," Bird assured. "I thought it (the ejection) was a bad call. I've been told it wasn't a punch. It looked like they just got tangled up."
Miller made a jumper that cut the deficit to 81-60 with 2:34 to go but picked up four fouls and a technical over the next two minutes.
In the regular-season rout, Karl drew the ire of the Pacers by staying with his starters until less than two minutes remained.
This time, he went deep into his bench midway through the final period.
"I'm not going to be a hater and talk about the things I don't like about the game," Rose said. "The bottom line is we've got to take our (butt)-whupping and move on."