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Pacers see off Bucks thanks to bench stars McConnell and Toppin

TJ McConnell and Obi Toppin came off the bench to inspire the Indiana Pacers to a series-clinching 120-98 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA play-offs.

McConnell scored 20 points and Toppin 21 as the Pacers won Game Six to advance to their first Eastern Conference semi-final in a decade.

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The Bucks were again without two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo but Damian Lillard did return to score 28 points in a losing effort.

Milwaukee’s bench players were unable to replicate the efforts of McConnell and Toppin, however, who were pivotal for the home side.

“It means a lot,” McConnell said. “Not getting into the play-offs since the bubble, not being able to advance since 2014, we take great pride in being able to advance and extend our season.

“Milwaukee has a great team and, if I can be honest with you, I think our bench has taken a couple steps back competitive wise and I think tonight all of us went out there with the mentality we’re going to take it to another level.”

Toppin added: “”TJ actually helped me today, told me to be aggressive, told me to be myself.

”Everybody did their jobs today, from the starters to the bench, everybody had a good game.”

The 2021 champion Bucks had no answer to Indiana’s relentlessness as they suffered their second successive first-round exit.

Coach Doc Rivers said: “They’ve created a hell of a team, not only young, I think the [Pascal] Siakam trade really will change their fortunes going forward.

“They’re just a tough team. Obviously, we had guys out and all that, and that’s hard, right? But let’s give them credit. I thought they played terrific.”

Indiana will now go on to face the New York Knicks with Game One coming on Monday in New York.

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