Bench players Obi Toppin, T.J. McConnell lead Pacers into semis

INDIANAPOLIS – Obi Toppin scored 21 points, TJ McConnell had 20 points and nine assists and the Indiana Pacers won a playoff series for the first time in a decade, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 120-98 in Game 6 on Thursday night.

The Pacers will face the winner of the Philadelphia-New York series in the Eastern Conference semifinals. New York took a 3-2 lead in Game 6 later Thursday.

Toppin and McConnell are the first duo in Pacers playoff history to each score 20 or more points coming off the bench in the same game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Indiana’s historic victory came exactly 30 years after it swept Orlando 3-0 to advance to the NBA playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and it came on a night when the Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo again. The two-time league MVP never played after straining his left calf on April 9.

Damian Lillard, meanwhile, returned from a right Achilles tendon injury and played well – but wasn’t as dominant as in the first two games where he scored 69 points. Lillard finished with 28 points on 7-of-16 shooting.

Bobby Portis Jr. added 20 points and 15 rebounds for Milwaukee. Brook Lopez also had 20 points and Khris Middleton had 14 points and eight rebounds.

Two-time All-Star Tyrese Haliburton had 17 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for Indiana, and Pascal Siakam finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. Toppin and McConnell each recorded career playoff scoring totals, and McConnell also had four interceptions.

Indiana went 8-3 against the Bucks this season and handed Milwaukee its second straight first-round exit.

Easy? No chance. Indiana turned things around with a 23-3 first-quarter spurt that made the score 29-19 and the Pacers never trailed again.

But every time the Bucks fought back, the Pacers had an answer.

When Milwaukee cut the lead to 38-34 early in the second quarter, Indiana scored seven straight points. When the Bucks opened the second half on a 9-4 run to get within 63-56, Indiana responded with a 10-5 run to extend the lead to 12. When Milwaukee got within 85-78 with 6:05 left in the third. , McConnell capped an 11-0 run with consecutive 3-pointers to make it 96-78 early in the fourth.

And the Bucks never recovered as the Pacers extended the lead to 104-84 with 8:07 left. From that point on, the atmosphere was celebratory at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, with Pacers players serenaded off the court to a standing ovation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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