East Notes: Bucks, Damian Lillard, Pacers, Bulls


No one was really sure what to expect from the Bucks without injured forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 1 of their matchup with the Pacers in the NBA playoffs.Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA

But it always helps when star guard Damian Lillard scores 35 points — in the first half. Not surprisingly, Milwaukee won handily.

“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 told reporters. “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. That was just my mentality, to come out and try to set the tone.”

Coach Doc Rivers appeared even more impressed.

“He’s got that prizefighter-like mentality,” Rivers said. “It’s almost like he’s training for the fight. When the bell rings, he seems to be ready.”

Lillard added that he was thrilled just to be in the NBA playoffs again after a couple seasons sitting them out with the Trail Blazers.

“The last two years, not being in the playoffs, it sucked,” Lillard said. “Early vacations. Last year, I went to Coachella. I ain’t never been able to go to Coachella. It’s playing in the playoffs every year. Just having that long summer, it was like, man, I was over that.”

  • Antetokounmpo’s return remains up in the air as he is still dealing with a strained left calf, which caused him to miss the Bucks’ final three regular-season games. Game 2 is Tuesday in Milwaukee.


The Pacers won four of five meetings between the Bucks during the regular season, but this group is fairly new to the postseason.

“It’s easy to just say we missed shots and now we’re nervous or whatever,” Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton said. “Whatever you all are going to run with, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like we missed shots, at the end of the day. The ball wasn’t hopping. And they made shots in the first half and that kind of dug us a hole.”

  • This is the Pacers’ first playoff appearance since the 2020 Disney bubble. They had been to nine straight then. But they haven’t won a series since 2014.
  • Coach Rick Carlisle on the loss: “The first half was embarrassing. No excuses. We’ve simply got to come out better. It was ugly, and we all own it.”


  • Attempting to trade guard Zach LaVine will remain the Bulls’ focus this offseason, our Ashish Mathur relayed here. Chicago unsuccessfully attempted to move LaVine at the deadline in February.
  • The Bulls offered small forward DeMar DeRozan a two-year extension, Mathur relayed here. DeRozan will become an unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t reach a deal with Chicago before July.

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