Work in Sports
MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Not only did the Milwaukee Bucks stave off elimination in their first-round playoff series with the Indiana Pacers tonight, they reminded the Eastern Conference's top seed just how easily they can be embarrassed.
Ray Allen led a devastating first-half attack with 18 of his 20 points and the Bucks made the Pacers look like the eighth seed for the second time in three games, coasting to a 100-87 victory and knotting the best-of-five first-round playoff series.
Milwaukee used a 60 percent shooting performance in the first half to cruise to a 104-91 Game Two victory at Conseco Fieldhouse on Thursday to tie the series at 1-1. Tonight, they shook off Saturday's 109-96 setback by connecting on a dizzying 64 percent (29-of-45) of their shots in the opening 24 minutes.
Allen, who was 7-of-10 during the assault, gave an early indication that the night belonged to the Bucks. He sent the 18,072 fans at the Bradley Center into a frenzy by beating the buzzer with a running 3-pointer that kissed the glass and fell through the twine to give Milwaukee a 33-21 lead after one period.
"Tonight the crowd was with us and we kept pouring it on," Allen said. "Guys kept coming off the bench and keeping it going.
There is a lot of players sitting at home right now, I've been there. We just want to play basketball and win games. Nobody said Milwaukee was going to win. We've been the underdog and hopefully we have changed some people's minds."
Tim Thomas had nine points during a 17-4 burst to open the second period as Milaukee doubled up the Pacers, 50-25, on Sam Cassell's 15-footer with 6:52 before intermission.
Scott Williams scored a season-high 20 points off the bench on 9-of-13 shooting and he and Thomas both hit their first six shots as the Bucks built a 64-37 advantage at the break.
Allen finished finished 8-of-13 from the floor with eight rebounds in 33 minutes, leaving the floor late in the third quarter to receive stitches over his right eye after catching an inadvertant elbow from Indiana forward Jalen Rose.
"Ray got cut. He could have played but because of the score, I didn't put him back in," Milwaukee coach George Karl said.
Glenn Robinson scored 18 points and Thomas added 17 for Milwaukee, which saw its reserves get outscored 25-12 in the final period to soften the effect of the final score.
The Bucks can advance to the conference semifinals for the first time since 1989 and avenge last season's first-round sweep against the Pacers with a victory at Indiana on Thursday.
As good as Milwaukee has been in Games Two and Four, the Pacers have looked dreadful in both contests. Rose scored 17 points and Reggie Miller added 15 for Indiana, which went 0-of-13 from 3-point range.
"We gotta give credit to Milwaukee," Miller said. "They played their behinds off. They had all the answers. They got a lot of points off their bench. Their bench outplayed our bench. Our bench should be embarrassed."
Although the Pacers had an NBA-best 36-5 home record during the regular season, they have been beaten by an average of 17 points in their last two home losses to the Bucks.
"It's an elimination game for us," Williams said. "Third of the year for us. So we're confident we can win. If we bring the level and energy we had in Games Two and Four, we're comfortable that we can win and we've done it twice there, we feel confident."
Dale Davis had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana, which made just 13-of-36 shots over the first 24 minutes and committed 10 first-half turnovers.
The Bucks held a 40-34 advantage in points in the paint and outscored the Pacers, 15-3, on the break.
Cassell had six points and 13 assists for Milwaukee, which shot 49 percent (42-of-85) and held a 44-39 rebounding edge. The Pacers finished 40 percent (30-of-75) from the field and had their reserves outscored, 45-29, by the Bucks' backups.
Miller's 15-footer gave Indiana an 8-4 lead with 8:37 remaining in the first quarter. Thomas' 17-footer less than two minutes later put Milwaukee ahead to stay, 13-12, and Allen buried a 26-footer to begin the onslaught.
Williams and Allen had back-to-back layups, Robinson dunked and Williams and Allen scored on successive trips again to open a 26-15 lead with 3:51 remaining in the opening period.
Allen put the exclamation point on the quarter when he got his 29-footer off just prior to the buzzer and watched it bank home to make it 33-21.
Thomas opened the second quarter with a layup to spark what proved to be a devastating run.
Allen made two free throws, Thomas and Vinny Del Negro hit back-to-back runners and Thomas made a 3-pointer and 19-footer before Ervin Johnson hit from nine-feet to make it 48-25 with 7:23 remaining in the first half.
"They had us on our heels and made a lot of shots early," Indiana coach Larry Bird said. "They're hitting their shots and controlling the boards and we're not helping each other out on defense. I thought Milwaukee did a great job zoning up the middle and taking us out of our offense. Hopefully, we can make some adjustments by Thursday."
Davis, who was ejected from Game Three for a skirmish with Cassell, again displayed his frustration by fouling Williams in the lane with 7:27 remaining in the third quarter. Williams sank both free throws and tipped-in Robinson's missed 15-footer in the following sequence to give Milwaukee its biggest lead of the night, 77-46.
"You're starting to see the Bucks team that people talked about in the preseason," Milwaukee forward Darvin Ham said. "When we play hard, we can beat anyone. The pressure is on them. We know we can compete with them and beat them on their home floor."
"It was like Game Two all over again," Indiana forward Austin Croshere said. "They hit their shots and we never even matched their intensity. In Game Three, we had our backs against the wall and won some breathing space. Tonight, we didn't take advantage of that. We played 82 games so we can have a Game Five at home. We have to be motivated. To not come out and play with pride in our home building would be embarrassing."