Indiana Pacers oust Bucks to celebrate first playoff series victory in a decade

Obi Toppin scored 21 points, TJ McConnell had 20 points and nine assists and the Indiana Pacers won a playoff series for the first time in a decade on Thursday night, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 120-98 in Game 6.

The Pacers will meet the winner of the Philadelphia-New York series in the Eastern Conference semifinals. New York took a 3-2 lead in Game 6 later Thursday.

Indiana’s milestone victory came exactly 30 years after it defeated Orlando 3-0 to advance to the NBA playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and it came on a night when the Bucks were once again without Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-time league MVP never played again after straining his left calf on April 9.

Damian Lillard, meanwhile, returned from a right Achilles tendon injury and played well, but wasn’t nearly as dominant as in the first two games when he scored 69 points. Lillard finished with 28 points on 7-of-16 shooting.

Bobby Portis Jr added 20 points and 15 rebounds for Milwaukee. Brook Lopez also had 20 points and Khris Middleton had 14 points and eight rebounds.

Two-time All-Star Tyrese Haliburton had 17 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for Indiana, and Pascal Siakam finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. Toppin and McConnell each had playoff career-high scoring totals, and McConnell also had four steals.

Simple? No chance. Indiana turned the game around with a 23-3 spurt in the first quarter to make it 29-19 and the Pacers never trailed again.

But every time the Bucks stormed back, the Pacers had an answer.

When Milwaukee cut the score to 38-34 early in the second quarter, Indiana scored seven straight points. When the Bucks opened the second half with a 9-4 run to get close to 63-56, Indiana responded with a 10-5 run to extend the margin to 12. When Milwaukee got to 85-78 with With 6:05 left in the third, McConnell capped an 11-0 run with back-to-back three-pointers to make it 96-78 early in the fourth.

And the Bucks never recovered as the Pacers extended the lead to 104-84 with 8:07 to play. From then on, there was a festive atmosphere at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, with Pacers players serenaded off the field to a standing ovation.