Indiana’s Chris Copeland is mauled by teammate Lance Stephenson after hitting a last-second runner to give Indiana a 104-102 victory.
The Bucks have endured their fair share of losses this season. Sixty-four to be exact. But none were as crushing as Wednesday’s 104-102 defeat at the hands of the Pacers.
You’re probably thinking: Whoa, whoa whoa. Hold up. This team has lost SIXTY-FOUR games and THIS ONE, a late-season loss to the best team in the East, is the worst of them all.
Allow me to explain.
For one, THE PACERS DID NOT PLAY THEIR STARTERS. They didn’t play any of them. Not Paul George, not Roy Hibbert, not David West – not even Lance Stephenson or George Hill. Sure, Indiana’s chemistry is a mess, but sitting ALL FIVE starters is about as close to a slap in the face of your opponent as it gets.
But the Bucks, even with a pile of injuries, had their chance to respond. Vogel’s decision to sit the starting five leveled the playing field, turning the matchup from a probable blowout into a very, very winnable matchup.
Part of what makes this the most crushing loss of the season is that the Bucks were unable to capitalize, confirming the belief that a good NBA team could sit its five best players and still beat the lowly Milwaukee Bucks.
The other part is how the Bucks lost the game.
Down for nearly the entire fourth quarter, the Bucks battled back to take their first lead of the period on a Jeff Adrien jumper with 4:16 remaining. The teams traded baskets for the next four minutes until a pair of Rasual Butler free throws gave Indiana a four-point advantage with 21 seconds on the clock.
At this point, things were looking bleak. The surprisingly rowdy Bradley Center crowd was beginning to return to its usual murmur. But a quick Jeff Adrien layup brought the Bucks back to within two, and an ensuing foul on Ramon Sessions sent Lavoy Allen to the line.
Allen clanked the first but made the second, putting the Pacres up 102-99 with 14 seconds left. On the other end, Khris Middleton was somehow able to draw a three-point shooting foul on Ian Mahinmi, sending Middleton to the line and the crowd into a frenzy. Middleton drained all three free throws, leading to an Indiana timeout with 4.1 seconds left.
Inbounding from the sideline, the Pacers got the ball to Chris Copeland (that’s right, Chris Copeland), who drove to the hoop and converted a runner over Ramon Sessions with just over a second remaining. Without a timeout, Milwaukee frantically inbounded to Middleton, whose desperation heave fell well short of the rim.
In a season filled with defeats, surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) few have come down to the wire. And even fewer have resulted in a guy averaging 5.7 minutes per game hitting the game-winner.
The Pacers were led by 24 points (11-17 FG) and nine rebounds from Luis Scola. Evan Turner added 23 points, nine assists and seven boards while Copeland finished with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
The Bucks shot 43.7 percent from the field and were again led by the Sessions-Knight backcourt tandem, which accounted for 45 points, 14 assists and six rebounds. The pair shot a combined 14-of-36 from the field and 14-of-19 at the line. Zaza Pachula added 15 points and nine boards for Milwaukee, while Jeff Adrien contributed 13 points to go with a career-high 17 rebounds.
– John Henson played just 20 minutes, scoring six points (3-5 FG) and grabbing four rebounds.
– Chris Wright saw 15 minutes of action off the bench with both of his field goals coming from highlight-reel dunks (one of which can be seen here).
– Milwaukee shot just 4-of-16 from three, compared to Indiana’s 11-of-24.
– Four Bucks starters (Adrien, Pachulia, Middleton, Sessions) each made six field goals. Just crazy stuff.
– Rasual Butler attempted 10 three-pointers, falling just 12 attempts short of J.R. Smith’s NBA record.
– Copeland’s 17 minutes were tied for the most he’s played all season after signing a two-year deal with the Pacers last summer.
– Indiana swept the four-game season series with Milwaukee, winning by an average margin of 11 points.
Points: Scola (24), Knight (25)
Rebounds: Scola (9), Adrien (17)
Assists: Turner (9), Knight (10)
Blocks: Butler (2), Wright (2)