NBA playoffs scores, takeaways: Pacers rout Bucks in Game 6 to advance to Eastern Conference semifinals (2024)

The 2024 NBA playoffs continued Thursday night, as the Indiana Pacers routed the Milwaukee Bucks 120-98 in Game 6 to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Buckswelcomed back Damian Lillard, who missed the past two games with an Achilles injury, while Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf) was ruled out. Even with the late addition of Lillard, Milwaukee was unable to top the Pacers.

With the loss, the Bucks repeated last year's playoff run when they exited the first round after a standout regular season.

For the Pacers, they were boosted by an electric T.J. McConnell, who dropped 20 points off the bench on 7-of-9 shooting. Tyrese Haliburton added 17 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists. Pascal Siakam contributed 19 points to go along with his stellar defense.

Here are some key takeaways from Game 6:

McConnell steals the show

McConnell was one of the best backup point guards all season long, but he hadn't been super effective over the first five games of the series. That changed in a major way on Thursday night, as McConnell played not only his best game of the matchup, but of his entire playoff career.

He was a major part of the Pacers' defensive game plan to pressure the ball all 94 feet and speed up the game. The Bucks jumped out to an early lead, but once McConnell checked in, he changed the game. Late in the first quarter, he picked up steals on back-to-back possessions to create easy baskets for the Pacers, including one on an inbounds pass.

Offensively, McConnell was doing his usual playmaking by getting into the lane at will and collapsing the defense, but he also gave the Pacers a huge boost in the scoring department. His 20 points were a playoff career-high and tied for his third-most in a game this season. His whirling layup over Damian Lillard and 3-pointer to end the third quarter stand out as particularly meaningful.

Thanks to McConnell's leading effort, the Pacers' bench outscored the Bucks' reserves 50-10.

Indiana's third quarter ending sequence swings the game

Late in the third quarter, the Bucks finally started to get some contributions from their bench and strung a number of baskets together. After a driving and-one by Brook Lopez, they had the deficit down to seven, and it looked like they were going to take all the momentum into the fourth quarter.

Instead, Lopez failed to complete the three-point play, and the Pacers closed the frame on a furious run. McConnell started it with a layup, then Andrew Nembhard picked off a pass from Lopez that led to an and-one by Aaron Nesmith and finally McConnell buried a triple that sent the crowd into hysterics.

In the span of 45 seconds, the Pacers pushed the lead back to 15 points and effectively ended the game. The Bucks never even got it to single digits again, which allowed for a comfortable end to the night for everyone inside Gainsbridge Fieldhouse. Coaches always talk about finishing quarters strong, and the Pacers' effort in the third was a perfect example of why it's so important to do so.

Another first-round exit for the Bucks

The Bucks crashed out of the playoffs in embarrassing fashion last season with a five-game loss to the No. 8 seed Miami Heat. That early exit prompted serious changes, as they fired Mike Budenholzer and made a blockbuster trade to swap Jrue Holiday for Damian Lillard.

A year later, they find themselves in the exact same spot. Of course, there were major extenuating circ*mstances this time around. Giannis Antetokounmpo didn't play in the entire series due to a calf strain that occurred on April 9, while Damian Lillard missed Games 4 and 5 due to an Achilles injury, and was limited upon his return in Game 6.

The question now is how do the Bucks move forward? Will they just make some moves on the margins, run it back and hope for better injury luck? Every key contributor from this season save for Malik Beasley is under contract for next season, so that would be the easiest path forward. But did they see enough before the injuries to believe they have a championship team? If not, they could look to shake things up with a trade or two, with Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton and Marjon Beauchamp being the most obvious candidates to be moved.

NBA playoffs scores, takeaways: Pacers rout Bucks in Game 6 to advance to Eastern Conference semifinals (2024)

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