INDIANAPOLIS — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 41 points, 12 rebounds and six assists and the Milwaukee Bucks fended off Indiana's second-half rally to beat the Pacers, 141-131, on Friday night (Saturday, Manila time).
Jrue Holiday added 23 points and nine assists for Milwaukee. The Central Division-leading Bucks won their third straight, this one coming in front of a surprisingly friendly road crowd.
See It is time to change the NBA All-Star voting process?
Myles Turner led the struggling Pacers with 24 points. Buddy Hield added 22 as Indiana lost for the ninth time in 10 games — after nearly overcoming a 33-point first-half deficit.
The Pacers have won an NBA-leading 11 times after trailing by double digits this season — twice after trailing by 20 or more points. But this time, the Pacers couldn't quite dig themselves out of the deep, early hole only getting as close as seven in the waning minutes.
Milwaukee looked as if it would run away quickly when its ninth 3-pointer of the game helped cap a 15-3 run to close the first quarter with a 45-30 lead. The charge continued through the second quarter as the margin expanded to 43 at 85-42 in the final minute of the half.
But Indiana finally answered in the third quarter, trimming it to 114-99 and then methodically got closer in the fourth while repeatedly sending Antetounkoumpo to the free-throw line. They took advantage of his misses by getting to 131-124 with 3:27 to play but couldn't get any closer.
Bucks: The 85 first-half points were a season high. ... Antetokounmpo was playing his third straight game since missing five games with an injured right knee. ... Khris Middleton had 17 points despite being on a minutes restriction.
Pacers: Indiana lost its 10th straight in the series and its fourth straight to the Bucks in Indy. ... The Pacers were outrebounded 50-38. ... Hield made five 3s to break a tie with Jason Richardson (1,608) for No. 31 on the NBA's career list. Hield now has 196 this season and 1,613 in his career. ... Rookie Bennedict Mathurin had 21 points and eight rebounds. T.J. McConnell had 19 points and nine assists.
One day after Antetokounmpo was selected to his seventh All-Star Game and again selected as captain of the Eastern Conference squad, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle made it clear how much he thinks of the one-time NBA champion and two-time league MVP.
"He's as difficult a guy to guard as there is," said Carlisle, winner of 885 career games and the 2010 championship. "Giannis is very unique, and I don't think there will ever be a player quite like him in this league, maybe ever. He's a beast, just an absolute beast."
Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton missed his ninth consecutive game since spraining his left elbow and left knee. When he initially got hurt against the New York Knicks on Jan. 11, team officials said he would be re-evaluated in two weeks. Apparently, that timeline has been revised.
"I think maybe early next week," Carlisle said when asked for an update. "But he's doing well, doing well."
Bucks: Host New Orleans on Sunday.
Pacers: At Memphis on Sunday.