The Indiana Pacers are back in the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2020 and since Rick Carlisle took over as the franchise's head coach in 2021. However, they did not have a great start to their postseason campaign, as they got lit up by Damian Lillard and the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday night to the tune of a 109-94 score.

The blowout score probably doesn't even give enough justice to how dominant the Bucks were against the Pacers. The game looked practically over in the first half, as Indiana could not slow down, let alone contain, the Bucks' attack, particularly Lillard, who had a one-man show in the initial two quarters of the contest. Carlisle owned up to Indiana's shortcomings in the first half, as he offered zero alibis for his team's debacles.

Pacers' Pascal Siakam, Rick Carlisle speak up after loss to Bucks


“The first half was embarrassing. No excuses, we simply have got to come out better. It was ugly and we all own it… [The Bucks] looked like the experienced team, and we looked inexperienced, Carlisle told reporters during the postgame press conference.

The Pacers barely outscored Lillard in the first half, during which they only produced 42 points to Dame's 35. Lillard  shot 11/19 from the field and drained a total of six 3-pointers before halftime, as Indiana's defensive woes continue in the postseason. Defense has been a major Achilles heel of Indiana this season. The Pacers finished the regular season just 27th in the league with 120.3 points allowed per game. Despite topping the league in scoring offense with 123.1 points per outing, the Pacers were just ninth overall with a +2.8 average scoring margin.

The Pacers did show more life in the second half versus the Bucks, especially in the third quarter where they outscored Milwaukee by 15 points, but that was clearly not enough to overcome the huge 27-point halftime deficit.

Pascal Siakam had a standout performance for the Pacers and was one of the few bright spots on the team in Game 1, as he scored 36 points on 15/25 shooting from the floor with 13 rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a pair of blocks in 40 minutes, but he felt Indiana, as a team, did not show up with the kind of hunger needed to survive in the playoffs.

“We didn’t have the intensity we were supposed to have, but they made tough shots. We weren’t us, we didn’t stay composed,” Siakam said after the game, per Jeremiah Johnson.

The hope for the Pacers is that Milwaukee will cool off in Game 2 while they come up with a better start. Indiana fell way behind early in the series opener that they spent a lot of time taking lower-percentage long-range shots in a vain attempt to erase a big Bucks lead.

Siakam also gave the Bucks props for playing the way they did coming right out of the gate.

“They came out and sent a message and did what they’re supposed to do, Siakam said (h/t Pat Boylan). They’re the 3 we’re the 6, they won at home, now it’s time for us to respond.”

The Pacers could certainly use a strong bounce-back performance from Tyrese Haliburton, who coughed up just nine points on 4/7 shooting from the field in Game 1. Haliburton added seven rebounds and eight assists, but the Pacers are going to need him to be more aggressive in hunting for his shots in the series.

Game 2 of this Pacers-Bucks series will be on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time.