Bucks' Damian Lillard's 35 first-half points spark playoff win over Pacers


April 22 (UPI) -- Damian Lillard made 11 shots en route to 35 first-half points to lead the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Milwaukee Bucks to a dominant win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their first-round NBA playoff series.

"I wanted to get my pace up and attack," Lillard told reporters after the 109-94 victory Sunday at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. "I was able to get into a rhythm. I knew I [had to] be aggressive, so I stayed in attack mode."

The Bucks made 47.1% of their shots, while the Pacers made a season-low 39.6% of their attempts. The Bucks also held a 42-36 edge in rebounding and led by as many as 30 points.

Lillard, who joined the Bucks in an off-season trade from the Portland Trail Blazers, did not play in the second half of his first postseason game since 2021. He was 11 of 24, including 6 of 11 from 3-point range, in 37:52 of first-half action. Lillard also made all seven of his free throw attempts and chipped in six rebounds and three assists.

Khris Middleton totaled 23 points and 10 rebounds in the victory. Fellow Bucks forward Bobby Portis logged 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Pacers forward Pascal Siakam totaled a game-high 36 points and 13 rebounds in the loss. The Bucks are now 5-6 in games played this season without Antetokounmpo, who is recovering from a calf muscle strain.

"I don't think it's all on me, but I know I've got to be a little more aggressive and I've gotta step forward a little more assertively," Lillard said. "In the playoffs, it's about setting the tone. We are going to see this team a lot of times and you want to establish yourself, especially on your home floor.

"That was my mentality, to try to set the tone in that way."

Lillard scored 19 points through the first 12 minutes of Sunday's victory. He poured in another 16 in 7:08 of second-quarter action.

"He carried us," Bucks coach Doc Rivers said of Lillard. "He was unbelievable. I thought he just played under control, very aggressive, which is the way we wanted him."

The Pacers held the lead three times through the opening four minutes. Lillard then helped the Bucks put together a 10-3 run and they never trailed again. He scored 14-consecutive Bucks points during one first-quarter stretch.

"His confidence is literally unshakeable," Rivers said of Lillard.

The Pacers outscored the Bucks 29-14 in the third quarter, but still trailed by a dozen to start the fourth. The Bucks outscored their first-round foes 26-23 over the final 12 minutes.

The Bucks (1-0) will host the Pacers (0-1) in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series at 8:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday in Milwaukee.