Damian Lillard set a Milwaukee Bucks franchise record by scoring 35 points in the first half of the team’s 109-94 Game 1 win against the Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs. Lillard shot 11/19 from the floor and 4/6 from three-point range while leading the team without superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“I don’t think that it’s all on me, but I know that I’ve got to be a little bit more aggressive, and I’ve got to step forward a little bit more assertively,” Lillard said. “In the playoffs … it’s about setting a tone. We’re going to see this team a lot of times, and you want to establish yourself, especially on your home floor.”

Lillard’s 35 first-half points were enough to give the Bucks a 27-point lead at halftime. Indiana focused on him defensively in the second half and outscored Milwaukee by 15 points in the third quarter, but the lead was still too large. Lillard only shot five times in the second half, all of them, but also finished with six rebounds and three assists as the Bucks walked away with a 15-point win. Khris Middleton also had an efficient game for Milwaukee, finishing with 23 points, 10 rebounds and four assists on 64.3% shooting.

The Bucks ended the regular season on a 3-7 stretch but opened the playoffs with a key win at home. Lillard’s 35 points were the most he’s scored since March 4, and the six threes he made the most in a month. As a team, Milwaukee went 1-4 against Indiana in the regular season but managed a win despite playing without Antetokounmpo. Pascal Siakam led Indiana with 36 points and 13 rebounds, but the Pacers only shot 39.6% from the field and 20.5% from three.

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The Sunday afternoon win against Indiana was Lillard’s first playoff game since 2021. He spent the previous 11 years of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers but was traded in the most recent offseason in hopes of playing with a title contender.

“The last two years, not being in the playoffs, it sucked,” Lillard said. “Just having that long summer, it was like, man, I was over that.”

Lillard’s 35 first-half points were enough to build a lead Milwaukee could keep the rest of the game, but a performance like that is only guaranteed for part of the series. Antetokounmpo sat out the last three games of the regular season and has yet to return to practice, with no precise return date yet to be given. In the meantime, Lillard and Middleton will have to lead the Bucks as the series continues.

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