He didn’t disappoint.
After missing Milwaukee’s season opener because of a sore right ankle, the point guard had 11 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Bucks to a 93-79 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
“Yeah, they’re good friends of mine,” Ford said of James and Anthony. “You’re always watching them and hoping that everyone does well. For me to come out and play well in my first game, I’m just really excited.”
The former Texas star and eighth overall pick in this year’s draft just missed becoming the second NBA player to record a triple-double in his first game, according to Elias Sports Bureau. In 1960, Oscar Robertson had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Cincinnati Royals.
“He was at 150 miles per hour out there,” Pacers forward Al Harrington said. “He did a great job and he kept us on our heels all night.”
Harrington led the Pacers with 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting. He didn’t get any help, however, with his teammates going 22-of-68 (32 percent) from the floor.
Pacers guard Reggie Miller left after the third quarter with a sore back and didn’t return. His availability for Saturday night’s game at Atlanta was not immediately known, a team spokesman said.
“We got outworked,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “They got the game going at their speed and we were just never able to get the game at our tempo.”
That was thanks to Ford, who controlled the game with a lightning-quick first step and crossover dribble that allowed him to penetrate the Indiana defense and get easy buckets for his teammates.
“He really pushed it up the floor for us tonight and created a lot of opportunities on the fast break,” Porter said.
Ford spurred the Bucks to 24 fastbreak points in the first half, helping the Bucks build a 49-36 lead.
“The 24 fastbreak points in the first half absolutely killed us,” Pacers forward Jeff Foster said. “They just outran us.”
Ford wasn’t the only player hustling for Milwaukee. The Bucks seemingly got their hands on every loose ball and outrebounded the Pacers 49-25.
In one sequence in the third quarter, the Bucks missed three shots but tracked down every rebound. They finished the possession with a 3-pointer by Thomas that pushed the lead to 63-44.
“You’re not going to win many games like that,” Foster said.
The Pacers showed some life in the fourth quarter when Harrington converted a three-point play with just under six minutes left that brought the Pacers within 10 at 84-74.
Ford responded by slashing to the rim and scoring on a pretty finger roll that pushed the lead back to 12, putting an exclamation point on an impressive performance.
“It’s a pretty good step, but I’ve got to do it for 80 more games,” Fordsaid.
Carlisle said before the game that he had very little conversation with Bucks owner Sen. Herb Kohl about coaching Milwaukee after George Karl was fired. Carlisle said then that he was content to take the year off. That was before Isiah Thomas was fired at Indiana. “I have no ill feelings about Milwaukee or Senator Kohl,” Carlisle said. “It just didn’t strike me as the right time.” … It was the Pacers’ first loss in their home opener in seven years. … The Bucks snapped a three-game losing streak at Indiana. … After shooting 94 percent (17-of-18) from the foul line in the loss to Minnesota, theBucks were 11-for-17 (65 percent) Friday night.