Playoffs

NBA playoffs: Shorthanded Bucks fall in 3-1 hole to Pacers after losing Bobby Portis to ejection

NBA playoffs: Shorthanded Bucks fall in 3-1 hole to Pacers after losing Bobby Portis to ejection

Already down Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks lost another key player early in Sunday's playoff Game 4 against the Indiana Pacers.

It proved too much to overcome as the Pacers caught fire from 3 and held off a game Bucks supporting cast for a 126-113 win to secure a 3-1 series lead.

Bobby Portis, right, was ejected for his role in a scuffle with Indiana’s Andrew Nembhard. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The Bucks kept things close early before finding themselves down a third starter with the ejection of Bobby Portis. Officials ejected Portis in the first quarter following a scuffle with Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard. With the Pacers leading 17-16 late in the quarter, Portis and Nembhard got into it on the baseline after a dead-ball whistle.

Bucks forward Khris Middleton was fouled on a drive to the basket that resulted in a missed shot. Portis reached around Nembhard's right shoulder as the two battled for rebounding position. Nembhard shoved Portis off him, and Portis responded by shoving Nembhard and smacking him in the back of his head. The two were separated before the situation escalated any further.

Officials reviewed the incident on the replay monitor. They issued a technical foul to Nembhard and two technical fouls on Portis, resulting in his ejection. Officials cited two Portis incidents — a "push in the chest" and a "slap with contact to the head of Nembhard" — for the separate technical fouls.

The Pacers were awarded a technical free throw that Tyrese Haliburton hit before Middleton shot his free throws for the personal foul. Milwaukee played the rest of the game without their Sixth Man of the Year finalist who stepped in to start in Antetokounmpo's absence. In three playoff games prior to his ejection, Portis averaged 15.3 points and 13.3 rebounds, production that was sorely missed on Sunday.

With Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez leading the way, Milwaukee remarkably kept the game close and entered halftime trailing, 67-64. But the Pacers seized control of the game with a 31-21 advantage in the third quarter.

Milwaukee cut the lead down to 98-92 with a 7-0 run to start the fourth. But the deficit on the scoreboard and on the sideline proved too much for the Bucks to overcome. Milwaukee ultimately couldn’t keep up with a Pacers offense that set a playoff franchise record with 22 made 3-pointers on 43 attempts (51.2%).

Center Myles Turner led the 3-point barrage with a career-high seven makes on nine attempts. He finished the game with 29 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Haliburton shot 5 of 12 from long distance en route to 24 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Nembhard, who avoided ejection for the scuffle with Portis, hit 3 of 4 3-pointers en route to 15 points and nine assists. He and backup point guard T.J. McConnell combined for 17 assists with zero turnovers.

Lopez led the Bucks with 27 points and nine rebounds. Middleton added 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. The oft-injured former All-Star is thriving in an expanded role after missing 27 games in the regular season. Unfortunately for the Bucks, his All-Star teammates weren't with him on the floor on Sunday.

The series returns to Milwaukee for Game 5, where the Pacers will look to close it out on the Bucks’ home court. Lillard's and Antetokounmpo's status for Game 5 is unclear.

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