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NBA playoffs: Tyrese Hailburton game-winner and potential Damian Lillard Achilles injury leaves Bucks in nightmare

In Sports
April 27, 2024

Tyrese Haliburton hit a floater from the free-throw line with 1.6 seconds left in overtime to give the Indiana Pacers a 121–118 win in Game 3 of their first-round NBA playoff matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks. With the victory, Indiana takes a 2–1 series lead.

The game nearly went to a second overtime when Khris Middleton tied the score at 118–118 by banking in a three-pointer from the top of the arc with eight seconds remaining. Middleton sent the game to its first overtime after hitting a three-pointer over Andrew Nembhard and Aaron Nesmith to tie the game at 111–111 with 2.1 seconds left in regulation.

Middleton was listed as questionable on Thursday with an ankle injury, but he scored 42 points (shooting 4-for-9 from three-point range) with 10 rebounds for the Bucks. Bobby Portis grabbed 18 rebounds for Milwaukee, along with his 17 points.

The Pacers surged to a 39–22 lead at the end of the first quarter, looking as if they’d blow out the Bucks. But Milwaukee chipped away at the lead, closing to 90–83 after three quarters. In the fourth, a 10–2 run gave the Bucks a 95–92 lead. Indiana took a 109–106 lead and appeared to have the game in hand before Middleton’s late-game heroics.

Damian Lillard added 28 points in a losing effort, but his health for the rest of the series could be in doubt. Following the game, Bucks coach Doc Rivers explained that Lillard actually may have injured his Achilles tendon.

Lillard’s availability was in question after suffering an apparent knee injury late in the first quarter. He took the ball to the basket against Pascal Siakam and landed hard on his left leg. The eight-time All-Star immediately went to the floor and grabbed his knee in pain.

Trainers looked him over on the Bucks’ bench, then took him to the locker room. At halftime, Lillard scored only nine points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field.

Lillard looked like he would be the difference in the game during the second half, scoring 17 points after halftime. But as Rivers mentioned, he wore down toward the end of the game and wasn’t a factor in overtime.

The Bucks came into the series short-handed with Giannis Antetokounmpo out due to a calf injury. Despite finishing as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, Milwaukee losing to the No. 6 seed Pacers now looks like a very real possibility with its three best players either sidelined or hobbling.

Haliburton will be remembered for hitting the winning shot in Game 3, but he struggled to score until that point. The Pacers star scored 18 points on 8-for-22 shooting (including 1-for-11 on three-pointers), but notched a triple-double with 16 assists and 10 rebounds while playing a game-high 46 minutes.

Myles Turner led Indiana with 29 points with nine rebounds and Siakam scored 17 points, also grabbing nine boards.

In his fourth NBA season, Haliburton had a breakout season, leading the Pacers to the finals of the in-season tournament and their first trip to the playoffs in four seasons.

However, he’s had a difficult series, perhaps because of the matchups with Lillard and Patrick Beverley. Halliburton scored nine points in Game 1 and 12 in Game 2 after a regular season during which he averaged 20.1 points per game.

The Pacers have not won a playoff series since the 2013-14 season when they reached the Eastern Conference finals and lost to the Miami Heat in six games.

Game 4 of the Bucks-Pacers series is scheduled for Sunday in Indianapolis. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. ET, with the broadcast televised on TNT.

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