Originally created 04/29/00

Bucks get homecourt advantage against Pacers



INDIANAPOLIS -- In one game, the Indiana Pacers squandered what they spent an entire season to earn. Now, the Milwaukee Bucks have the momentum and homecourt advantage.

"The first game, they covered us well. The fine line was making the plays," Bucks coach George Karl said after a 104-91 victory Thursday night that evened the best-of-five first-round playoff series at one game apiece. "This time, we made the plays. We had everybody involved."

The Pacers had the best record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, earning homecourt advantage through the conference finals. But the Bucks took that away, for now, with Ray Allen and Sam Cassell scoring 20 points apiece and reserves Tim Thomas and Scott Williams playing important roles.

Game 3 is on Saturday in Milwaukee.

"It's the players' pride, their energy, their attitude that should be complimented. They believed they could win, and they did," Karl said.

In the only other NBA game played Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers crushed Sacramento 113-89 for a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

In tonight's only game, Charlotte is at Philadelphia in a series tied 1-1.

It was the Bucks' first playoff victory since 1990. A year ago, the Pacers swept Milwaukee 3-0 in the first round on the way to their fourth trip to the conference finals in the six years. Even with an 88-85 victory in the series opener last Sunday, the Pacers have not been sharp.

"We should have been rested," Indiana coach Larry Bird said of the five-day wait between games. "I was disappointed with our last two practices, and it carried over to the game. We got half an effort out of them. Will they learn from it? I don't know."

The Bucks never trailed, hitting 15 of 21 shots in the first quarter. They built the lead to 27 points late in the second period and to 31 in the third quarter. Only a fourth-quarter rally with reserves in the game kept it from being the worst playoff loss in the Pacers' history.

"When we didn't crumble in the second half, that's when the series began. And it will be very interesting to see where it goes," Karl said. "It's going to be a battle of competitors. Fortunately, we're going to have them in our building. In a five-game series, the third game is always the hardest game, it's always a pivotal game."

The Pacers were led by reserves Austin Croshere with 16 points and Travis Best with 14. Their usual scoring leaders, Jalen Rose and Reggie Miller, were held to 11 and 10 points, respectively. Rik Smits had 12 points, but was ejected in the third quarter after he threw an elbow at Ervin Johnson. That led to a suspension by the NBA from the Game 3 on Saturday night.

"I tried to box him out and my elbow got a little high," Smits said. "Looking at the film, I don't think it'll be a suspension."

Johnson said it was "just part of the game."

"He grazed me across the face or neck, whatever you want to call it. I don't mind the bumps, I don't mind the fouls. I just don't like people taking cheap shots," he said.

Even Miller, the Pacers' clutch player in so many playoff series, came unglued, picking up three fouls and a technical within one minute late in the third quarter.

"I'm just trying to get some emotion out there. We seemed dead. So you try to do anything to inject some life in the team," Miller said.

Milwaukee, whose last playoff victory was on May 1, 1990, against Chicago, never allowed the Pacers more than three consecutive points until the final seconds of the second quarter, when two free throws by Rose and a basket by Smits made it 61-38 at the half.

A 3-pointer by Allen and a slam dunk by Darvin Ham pushed the lead to 30 points in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Then two free throws by Cassell with 7:29 left gave the Bucks their biggest lead at 75-44.

"Our defense has been going pretty good for us. We're playing strong and aggressive," Cassell said. "If we stop teams while we're scoring points, that's our best. ... It was good ball movement, just good ball movement."

The Pacers clearly were rattled.

"We can't point fingers at anybody. We just have to come back and play strong," Bird said. "I was really concerned with our execution, but that wasn't our problem. They outshot us, they did exactly what they wanted to do. Everybody was frustrated. I was frustrated. The team was frustrated."

[bf]Lakers 113, Kings 89[nf]

In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant scored 22 of his career playoff high 32 points in the first half for the Lakers.

Game 3 will be played Sunday at Arco Arena in Sacramento.

Shaquille O'Neal had 23 points, 19 rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots, while Glen Rice added 18 points.

The Lakers outscored Sacramento 16-3 in the final seven minutes of the second quarter for a 56-41 halftime lead, and the Kings appeared thoroughly demoralized before the third quarter was over. The Lakers led 83-64 entering the final period.

Chris Webber led Sacramento with 22 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. The only other Sacramento in double figures was Vlade Divac with 14.