The Indiana Pacers withstood a 54-point outburst from Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday to hand the Bucks a 126-124 NBA 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.
“I know he can do this, but when you see it up close, it’s awesome,” said Milwaukee’s first-year coach Adrian Griffin, who was ejected in the third quarter for arguing a non-call on what he thought was a foul on Antetokounmpo.
“I thought Giannis was getting hit quite a bit and I voiced my opinion,” Griffin said. “Next time I will do it in a little bit more delicate way.”
Khris Middleton scored 19 points for Milwaukee, missing a game-tying three-pointer with 6.9 seconds remaining before making a three to cap the scoring at the buzzer.
Mexico City matchup
Trae Young’s 41 points were just about enough for the Atlanta Hawks in a 120-119 victory over the Orlando Magic in Mexico City.
Orlando led by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter and Franz Wagner gave the Magic a two-point lead with less than a minute remaining.
But Young found an open Dejounte Murray for a game-winning three-pointer with 31 seconds remaining and the Magic couldn’t find a way to get back in front.
The game, which drew a sell-out crowd of nearly 20,000 at Mexico City Arena, was one of two regular-season games outside the United States this season.
The Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers will play in Paris on January 11.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters in Mexico that he expects the league to return next season to Mexico City, where the developmental G-League’s Capitanes de Ciudad de Mexico are based.
They’re the first NBA-affiliated team based in Latin America, but Silver was non-committal on the long-discussed idea of adding an NBA expansion franchise in Mexico.
“I don’t want to put a specific timeline on it,” Silver said, noting the idea was first floated during the tenure of his predecessor David Stern.
“I’ll only say that putting aside Mexico City, we don’t expand all that often.
“Having said all that, it still is important to plant a flag in every market we can,” added Silver, who said the league sees Mexico “as a gateway essentially to the rest of Latin America.”
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