Pascal Siakam powers Pacers past Bucks to even playoff series as Giannis Antetokounmpo remains out

Giannis Antetokounmpo missed a fifth straight game with a calf injury on Tuesday night, but he's "getting closer" to his return

They had to fend off another huge start from Damian Lillard, but the Indiana Pacers are headed home with a tied series.

The Pacers took off in the fourth quarter to beat Lillard and the Milwaukee Bucks 125-108 in Game 2 of their opening-round playoff series Tuesday night at Fiserv Forum. The Pacers tied the series 1-1 and became the first road team to win this postseason. It also marked their first playoff win since 2018.

Pascal Siakam dropped a playoff career-high 37 points in the win and shot an impressive 16-of-23 from the field for the Pacers. That surpassed his previous postseason best, set in their Game 1 loss. According to ESPN's Matt Williams, Siakam is now the first player with at least 35 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 60% from the field in each of the first two games of a playoff series since Shaquille O'Neal did so in the 2000 NBA Finals.

Though he kept pace with Lillard perfectly in the first half, it was what he did in the fourth quarter that sealed the win for Indiana. Siakam, after the Bucks opened the period on a quick 5-0 burst to threaten the Pacers' lead, immediately sparked an 8-0 run of their own that he capped with two huge contested mid-range jumpers in less than 90 seconds. The last one put the Pacers up by 12, which was their largest lead of the game at that point.

That 8-0 run quickly ballooned to 20-9 by the midway point of the period. That put the Pacers up by 20, which was a lead they rode the rest of the way to seal the 17-point win. Things got so easy at one point in the fourth quarter that Tyrese Haliburton easily found Siakam for a lob from the halfcourt logo.

Lillard opened with another strong first half Tuesday night. After putting up 35 points in the first half of Game 1, Lillard dropped 26 points off 6 3-pointers in the first 24 minutes Tuesday. Siakam and the Pacers, though, stuck with them this time. Siakam had 21 of his 37 points in the first half, and the Pacers went 10-of-21 from behind the arc — which gave them a five-point lead entering the break.

The Bucks entered the fourth quarter trailing by nine after a chaotic third quarter that the Pacers nearly ran away with. But thanks to that 5-0 burst to start the quarter, and a huge flagrant-foul and-1 on Pat Connaughton, the Bucks cut the game to just four points right away. That, though, is when Siakam and the Pacers took off for good.

Lillard led the Bucks with 34 points and five assists, though he largely stalled in the second half for a second straight night. Brook Lopez added 22 points, and Khris Middleton finished with 15 points and six assists.

Siakam added 11 rebounds and six assists. Myles Turner had 22 points and seven rebounds, and Haliburton finished with 12 points and 12 assists. The Pacers had 38 assists as a team, which tied a franchise playoff record, and they shot 16-of-36 from behind the arc.

While they’ll head to Indianapolis with the series tied, the Bucks need Giannis Antetokounmpo back sooner rather than later. Relying on Lillard and Middleton to carry the offense likely isn’t going to cut it.

Antetokounmpo missed the final three games of the regular season due to a calf strain, and he wasn’t available Tuesday night, either. The two-time league MVP did, however, appear to make some progress in his recovery.

“He shot today,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers said before the game, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He was on the floor a bunch, so he’s getting closer.”

How close, though, remains to be seen.

Game 3 is set for Friday night in Indiana.