As bad as the Indiana Pacers’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks was in Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs, it never felt as if the Pacers were out of it.

Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner made the most out of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absence, but the rest of Indiana was generally quiet. Part of it could be due to postseason inexperience, or it could be from how Damian Lillard’s 35-point first-half explosion left them shell-shocked.

Game 2, however, made it seem like the Pacers had the memory of a goldfish.

Siakam (37 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists) and Turner (22 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and three blocks) continued to produce for Indiana, but the stellar team passing (38 assists) allowed five more players to score at least eight points. Tyrese Haliburton was a big reason why the Pacers were able to tie the series with a 125-108 victory as he finished with a game-high 12 assists, half of what the Bucks had in Game 2.

The ball movement was a difference-maker for Indiana, but it can be said that the rebounding battle was equally important. Getting stops was critical in snuffing out any chance of Milwaukee gathering momentum. Even when the score was already lopsided, the Pacers didn’t let up.


Indiana’s defense has been particularly effective in the second half, where Lillard has scored only eight points (and all of that came in Game 2). Being able to consistently slow him down will only bode well for the Pacers, who are anticipating Antetokounmpo’s return at some point in the series (maybe in Indiana?).

Moreover, credit must be given to Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle and his staff. Apart from Siakam and Turner, the rest of the team either had bit roles in previous postseasons or none at all. Coaching them up in a testy playoff environment by urging Indiana to stick to the system earned them this victory and a continued trust in what worked for them here could allow them to continue to assert their mastery over the Bucks.

Of course, it would be remiss if we don’t discuss the Pacers’ passing, which is at the heart of what makes them a dangerous team. While it can make Indiana unpredictable, the ball movement allows them to offset any talent disadvantages as they can feed off each other and defeat opponents as a group. And Haliburton is at the heart of that.

Like the Game 1 loss, winning Game 2 only means that the Pacers have tied the series. Maybe Haliburton has found his rhythm, but the outcome to Game 3 is still unknown to all of us right now. What is certain, however, is the Pacers have rediscovered what makes them a devastating opponent and Milwaukee must now be ready for a fight as the series shifts back to Indiana.