Antetokounmpo fuels Bucks late rally to charge past Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered the finishing touch Wednesday.

The Milwaukee Bucks needed everything he could muster.

Antetokounmpo rallied the Bucks from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, recorded his fifth triple-double of the season and led Milwaukee past Indiana 106-97. He finished with 33 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists to keep the Bucks atop the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break.

“There are only so many things you can do,” said Pacers forward Thaddeus Young, who spent most of the night trying to defend Antetokounmpo. “But when he’s trying to post you up in the middle and is just spinning, he’s already at the rim. It’s just a tough battle. He did what he’s supposed to do.”

Time after time.

Antetokounmpo opened the game by making five of the Bucks’ nine first-quarter baskets, assisting on the other four. And after Milwaukee fell into an 86-76 hole early in the fourth, he bailed them out by scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting with six rebounds and three assists over the final 11½ minutes.

Every moment the Bucks needed a big play, Antetokounmpo made it.

His driving layup out of a timeout with 9:17 to go ended Indiana’s 7-0 run. His dunk with 5:06 remaining gave Milwaukee a 93-92 lead. His 10-foot turnaround jumper at the 3:51 mark tied it at 95, and his nifty pass to a wide open Ersan Ilyasova for a tiebreaking layup with 2:36 left gave Milwaukee the lead for good.

It was that kind of night.

Antetokounmpo closed out the first half with a flourish — his 13th game with at least 25 points, 15 rebounds and five assists to break a tie with Shaquille O’Neal for the most in a single-season since 1976-77.

Malcolm Brogdon scored 17 points and Khris Middleton added 15.

“The team did a great job keeping its composure,” Antetokounmpo said. “We changed the lineup, played harder and switched everything. We were able to make Indiana go 1-on-1, and I think we did a better job rebounding the ball and running the floor.”

For a while, it looked as if the Pacers had a pretty solid handle on the three-time All-Star.

Antetokounmpo followed his 5-of-7 start by missing six of his next seven shots as the Pacers charged back from 26-18 first-quarter deficit and a 55-47 halftime deficit to take the lead midway through the third quarter. They extended the margin to 10 on Tyreke Evans’ 3-pointer with 9:37 left.

But then the Bucks’ best player steadied himself and his teammates, helping Milwaukee outscore the Pacers 30-11 the rest of the way.

Bojan Bogdanovic led the Pacers with 20 points as Indiana’s six-game winning streak ended.

“He’s a monster,” Indiana coach Nate McMillan said. “Nineteen rebounds? He is starting their break rebounding the ball and they were able to score 23 fast-break points off our misses and turnovers.”

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