The young Pacers weren't ready for a closeout game on the road

The young Indiana Pacers had a perfect chance to advance to the second round, but they blew it.
Apr 30, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA;  Indiana Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard (2) drives for the
Apr 30, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard (2) drives for the / Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers had a chance to put it away, and they blew it big time.

Going into Game 5 in Milwaukee, hopes were high for the Pacers to put the injury-riddled Bucks away early and advance to the second round. With Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard both sidelined for the second straight night, the Pacers could practically taste the gentlemen's sweep and flight to New York.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

In the previous game on TNT's doubleheader, the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the New York Knicks in Game 5 with their backs against the wall and facing elimination, This meant the Sixers fought off elimination for now, and will be playing Game 6 on Thursday.

With a potential Pacers win, they could have been looking forward to at least five days of rest, potentially more if Philly can force a Game 7. All they needed to do was to take care of what was in front of them, which was a wounded Bucks team missing their two best players.

At the time of Philadelphia's win, the Pacers looked to be doing just that.

With just over two minutes left in the first quarter, the Pacers were up 31-21 on the Bucks who could not get much to go and were looking at their second straight first-round exit. While the Pacers did not score for the rest of the quarter, about 2 minutes and 22 seconds, they still held the Bucks to only two more points, entering the second quarter with an eight-point lead and looking to send the Bucks packing.

Unfortunately, this would be the best it got for the Pacers, as the rest of the game spelled complete disaster and a meltdown of drastic proportions. As it turned out, Indiana's dry spell to end the first quarter would be the norm going forward, as they went 0/4 to start the second quarter before scoring their first points after two minutes.

At this time, the Bucks cut the lead down to six. Indiana only managed to score once more in the next three minutes, by which time Milwaukee already had taken control of the game. Khris Middleton hit a three-pointer with 7:38 left in the second quarter to give the Bucks a lead they would not relinquish.

From there, Milwaukee started the takeover, outscoring the Pacers 14-12 in the final seven minutes of the first half to enter halftime up 53-48. Going into halftime, the expectation was for Rick Carlisle to give his team a much-needed kick in the pants to energize them for the second half and take back their game.

Long story short, this would not be the case. Indiana was thoroughly dominated in the second half, scoring only 44 points on 45% from the field and 17% from deep and looking completely lost out there. Milwaukee on the other hand, was unable to miss, scoring 62 points on an unbelievable 61% from the field and 43% from deep while enjoying 18-point halves from Bobby Portis and Malik Beasley, as well as a 12-point half from Khris Middleton.

These performances, along with Middleton's 17-point first half and Patrick Beverley's 12-point first half, spelled trouble for Indiana as they had no answer for Milwaukee's hot shooting and stifling defense, eventually losing in an embarrassing 92-115 blowout.

In addition to providing next to nothing on the defensive end, Indiana's stars poured in forgettable performances left and right. Tyrese Haliburton led the team in scoring with 16 points on 6/14 shooting, while Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner, fantastic in the series up until this point, only managed 12 and 13 points, respectively.

Indiana was completely taken out of their groove by Milwaukee's offense and played like they were already thinking about the flight to New York, despite neither team making it to the second round yet.

With this loss, Indiana made history in a different way, as they allowed the Milwaukee Bucks to become the first team in NBA history to win a playoff game without their two leading regular season scorers.

Indiana's situation just became a lot more dire, as in addition to this loss and the series being extended, they may also have to deal with the returns of Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo soon. With Lillard going down in Game 3 and Antetokounmpo being out since the start of the series, Game 6 may be a potential return date for one, or both of them, as confirmed by sources during the game, and Doc Rivers himself after the game.

Game 5 presented a perfect opportunity for the Pacers to win their first playoff series in 10 years and Rick Carlisle's first series since his 2011 NBA Championship, but it just wasn't to be. A combination of poor rotational decisions, bad shooting nights, awful defense, and the Bucks getting hot at just the right time ensured that Milwaukee stays alive for at least one more game.


Now, Indiana really feels the pressure, and with the looming returns of Antetokounmpo and Lillard possible, they have no reason to lose Game 6 in Indiana.