Damian Lillard Ignites With 35 First-Half Points, Bucks Overcome Pacers Without Giannis

Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

Damian Lillard put on a first-half scoring clinic, dropping 35 points to help the Milwaukee Bucks secure a 109-94 win over the Indiana Pacers in their NBA playoff opener, despite playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo due to a strained left calf.

Lillard, stepping up in the absence of the Bucks’ star, set a franchise record for points in a half during a playoff game. Although he cooled off in the second half, only attempting five shots as the Pacers adjusted their defense, his early explosive performance had already set the stage for Milwaukee’s win.

“Setting a tone is crucial in the playoffs,” Lillard explained, emphasizing the importance of establishing dominance, especially on home turf. “That was my mentality coming into the game.”

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS: Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks, Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers Updates

This marked Lillard’s return to postseason action since 2021, his first playoff appearance as a Buck after spending 11 seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers.

“The last two years, not being in the playoffs, it sucked,” Lillard said. “Early vacations. Last year, I went to Coachella. I ain’t never been able to go to Coachella. It’s playing in the playoffs every year. Just having that long summer, it was like, man, I was over that.”

Pascal Siakam led the Pacers with 36 points and 13 rebounds, but the team struggled from beyond the arc, shooting just 8 of 39 on three-point attempts. This lack of shooting efficiency was uncharacteristic for the Pacers, who led the league in scoring during the regular season.

Tyrese Haliburton, who contributed nine points and eight assists, downplayed the impact of the missed shots, stressing that the team simply had an off night.

“It’s easy to just say we missed shots and now we’re nervous or whatever,” Haliburton said. “Whatever you all are going to run with, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like we missed shots, at the end of the day. The ball wasn’t hopping. And they made shots in the first half and that kind of dug us a hole.”

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS: Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks, Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers Updates

The Bucks also saw solid performances from Khris Middleton, who added 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Bobby Portis, who chipped in with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Lillard’s historic scoring spree began immediately. He notched 19 points in the first quarter alone—the highest first-quarter point total in a playoff opener since at least 1997. His dominance continued as he helped significantly extend the Bucks’ lead by halftime.

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS: Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks, Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers Updates

Despite a brief rally by the Pacers, who cut the lead to 12 points at the end of the third quarter, Milwaukee quickly regained momentum. Jae Crowder and Malik Beasley, who each hit crucial three-pointers, helped solidify the Bucks’ lead, ensuring they maintained a comfortable margin through the final whistle.

“The first half was embarrassing,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “No excuses. We’ve simply got to come out better. It was ugly, and we all own it.”

Want the latest NBA analysis, breaking news, and insider information? Click Here. Follow NBA Analysis Network on Twitter and Facebook.

Interested in reading the latest storylines and analysis in the NFL? Check out our partner NFL Analysis Network.

How Celtics Achieved Stunning Game 1 Overtime Win Over Pacers

Jayson Tatum led the Boston Celtics to a dramatic 133-128 overtime victory against the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals during

Bronny James Gets Brutally Honest About ‘Tough’ NBA Path

Few young athletes enter the NBA carrying the weight of expectations that Bronny James does, largely because he is LeBron James‘ son. This unique challenge

Celtics Star Faces Massive Injury Update Before Conference Finals

Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis is expected to miss at least the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals due to a right calf