LOS ANGELES (AFP) — The Indiana Pacers withstood a 54-point outburst from Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday to hand the Bucks a 126-124 National Basketball Association defeat.
Tyrese Haliburton led the Pacers with 29 points including a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:29 to play.
That gave the Pacers a 122-121 lead and they wouldn’t trail again in a game they had led by as many as 18 in the first half before Antetokounmpo brought the Bucks roaring back.
Haliburton added 10 assists and Canadian forward Bennedict Mathurin scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Pacers, who had fallen behind by 10 early in the fourth quarter.
Haliburton said the late rally was a matter of “just figuring it out.”
“We dug down and figured it out defensively,” he said. “And then offensively that allowed us to play a little more up-tempo, play a little more our game offensively. We just got timely buckets.”
The big problem to be solved, Haliburton acknowledged, was Antetokounmpo.
“Giannis is obviously a lot for us defensively, a lot for anybody defensively,” Haliburton said.
Antetokounmpo’s 54 points were one shy of his career high and the most in a game so far in the young season.
He had two turnovers with less than two minutes remaining, missing his target on a pass before he was stripped of the ball by Mathurin.
But with All-Star Damian Lillard sidelined with a sore calf, it was a ferocious performance from the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, who made 19 of 25 shots from the field and 16 of 18 free throw attempts.
He also grabbed 12 rebounds and handed out three assists.