INDIANAPOLIS — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored an NBA season-high 54 points but committed two turnovers after Tyrese Haliburton’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:29 left, and the Indiana Pacers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 126-124 on Thursday night.
Haliburton had 29 points and 10 assists and Bennedict Mathurin added 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Pacers, who blew an 18-point lead and then had to rally from 10 down in the fourth quarter.
Antetokounmpo finished one point shy of his career high but threw away a pass with 1:03 left and was then stripped by Mathurin with 30 seconds to go, both with the Bucks trailing 122-121. He was 19-for-25 from the field, 16-of-18 on free throws and grabbed 12 rebounds, but also had eight turnovers.
“I didn’t take care of the ball on two possessions,” Antetokounmpo said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I had to shoot the ball, I didn’t shoot the ball. But I was gassed and they was able to get a win.”
The Bucks were without their first-year head coach for much of the second half as Adrian Griffin was ejected with 7:52 remaining in the third quarter. He was the recipient of a double technical foul immediately following Antetokounmpo’s dunk in traffic. A night earlier, after Antetokounmpo was ejected in a 120-118 win over Detroit, Griffin had promised to be more vocal with officials regarding hits on his superstar.
“I thought Giannis was getting hit quite a bit and voiced my opinion,” Griffin said. “Next time I’ll be a little more delicate. He’s such a great human being and doesn’t complain, has such respect for the referees. It is my responsibility to make sure he’s protected.”
Playing without All-Star Damian Lillard, sidelined by calf soreness, Milwaukee received a breathtaking performance from Antetokounmpo, who was three points shy of Michael Redd’s franchise record. Khris Middleton, who had 19 points and made a 3 at the final buzzer, missed a 3 that would have tied the score with 7 seconds left.
With 8.4 seconds to go and Indiana clinging to a one-point lead, Mathurin connected on two free throws to make it 124-121. Bruce Brown, who had 11 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, sealed the win with two foul shots in the final seconds.
Chicago’s Zach LaVine had the previous high game in the NBA this season with 51 points against Detroit on Oct. 28 before Antetokounmpo’s performance.
The Pacers roared to an 18-point lead in the first quarter and led 38-24 at the end of the period on the strength of eight 3-pointers. Milwaukee climbed within 66-60 at halftime and pulled even at 71 on two free throws from Middleton with 9:32 left in the third.
The Bucks went ahead by as many as 10 in the final period and still led 117-108 with 5 minutes left.
Antetokounmpo scored 26 points in the first half, including 18 in the second quarter, and then 20 more in the third period. He reached 50 with 10:28 left on a layup assisted by Middleton’s over-the-top pass, prompting an Indiana timeout.
The two-time MVP had seen a dip in his scoring to start the season; he was averaging less than 25 points per game heading into Thursday’s game.
“I was just — my legs were feeling good,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was on balance. I feel strong. I feel like I could attack angles like I been in the past. I’ve been feeling like this the last three games. That means I’m kind of getting my rhythm back, so I’m kind of happy about that.”
Milwaukee shot 53% from the floor but made only 9-of-27 from distance.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.