View Full Version : Pacers buckle under pressure

03-31-2004, 05:51 AM
MILWAUKEE -- The scoreboard at the Bradley Center wasn't the only thing that spent part of Tuesday night misfiring.

The Indiana Pacers, the NBA's best road team this season and one of its better defensive teams, were busy malfunctioning as well.

Struggling all night to find easy shots on one end and struggling to defend them on the other end, the Pacers fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 95-86 in a game Pacers coach Rick Carlisle called a "complete demolition from start to finish."

It's the third time this season the Bucks have waved their kryptonite in the face of the Pacers, who still need a win -- or a loss by Detroit -- to sew up the best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers (54-20) get one last chance to exorcise their Milwaukee demon tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse.

But if Milwaukee forward Joe Smith duplicates his monster numbers -- 25 points and 14 rebounds -- or the Pacers' effort is anywhere near as uneven as it was Tuesday night, they'll continue to struggle against the Bucks.

"We got outscored in every quarter except one, which was tied, and they played with more force and conviction the entire night," Carlisle said. "The good news is we've got another shot at them (tonight) and the bad news is we've got another shot at them (tonight).

"Give them credit. In three straight games now, they've physically outworked us and I'm sure that shows up in the stats somewhere. It's disappointing to lose three in a row to anybody, so we're going to have to figure it out and find a way to beat these guys."

Watching the film of Tuesday night's game won't provide any clues for the Pacers. They trailed by eight at halftime and after three quarters and never got closer than four in the fourth quarter. And they were outworked, according to the stats. In grand fashion.

Milwaukee won the rebounding battle (42-33), had a slight edge scoring in the paint (42-40), got more second-chance points (11-7) and held the edge on fast-break points as well (10-7).

"They did a good job. They played together defensively and came up with all the clutch plays," said Pacers forward Al Harrington, one of four Pacers to score in double figures (13 points). "They played the way we normally play."

The most glaring difference statistically, however, was the Bucks doubling the Pacers' free throw attempts (25-of-30 to 13-of-15), a clear indication of which team was more aggressive.

"When you go the entire first quarter and don't have a team foul, that's a pretty strong indicator that you're playing soft out there," Carlisle said. "They laid the ball in four or five times and we were nowhere near them. For us to be successful, our physical disposition has to be there. Especially against a team like Milwaukee, because they're a knowledgeable team and they're unselfish."

Both teams played without starters -- the Pacers without Jamaal Tinsley, who sat out with flulike symptoms, and the Bucks without Keith Van Horn, who's nursing a sore calf and ankle.

Jermaine O'Neal led the Pacers with 20 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Ron Artest struggled through a 6-of-16 shooting night, finishing with 12 points, just one rebound and two steals.

Harrington and Kenny Anderson (14 points and four assists) provided a lift off the bench, but it wasn't nearly enough to counter Milwaukee's balance.

Six Bucks scored in double figures, led by Smith, who tied a season high with his 25 points.

"Joe Smith was feeling it and he just killed us," Pacers center Jeff Foster said. "I'm one of the people that's responsible for him as well as others, and we just didn't have an answer for him. (Tonight) is a must win game, to show to ourselves, our fans and to show them that we can beat them."