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Damian Lillard's 35-point 1st half helps Bucks beat Pacers 109-94 without Giannis in playoff opener

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Damian Lillard's 35-point 1st half helps Bucks beat Pacers 109-94 without Giannis in playoff opener
Sport

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Damian Lillard's 35-point 1st half helps Bucks beat Pacers 109-94 without Giannis in playoff opener

2024-04-22 10:55 Last Updated At:11:00

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Damian Lillard’s sensational start ensured the Milwaukee Bucks would fare just fine without Giannis Antetokounmpo in their playoff opener.

Lillard scored all 35 of his points before halftime and the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Indiana Pacers 109-94 on Sunday while Antetokounmpo watched from the bench.

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Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle reacts during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Damian Lillard’s sensational start ensured the Milwaukee Bucks would fare just fine without Giannis Antetokounmpo in their playoff opener.

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts from the bench during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts from the bench during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez tries to get by Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez tries to get by Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Patrick Beverley gets past Indiana Pacers' Tyrese Haliburton during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Patrick Beverley gets past Indiana Pacers' Tyrese Haliburton during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Indiana Pacers' Pascal Siakam blocks the shot of Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Indiana Pacers' Pascal Siakam blocks the shot of Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Aaron Nesmith during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Aaron Nesmith during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard reacts after making a shot and being fouled during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard reacts after making a shot and being fouled during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Andrew Nembhard during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Andrew Nembhard during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

“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 said. “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.”

The Bucks needed Lillard to step up without Antetokounmpo, whose return date is uncertain as he deals with a strained left calf that also caused him to miss Milwaukee’s final three regular-season games. Game 2 of the playoff series is Tuesday in Milwaukee.

Lillard came through by setting a Bucks record for points in either half of a playoff game. He didn't score at all and attempted only five shots in the second half as the Pacers focused on slowing him down, but the damage was done by that point.

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

This was Lillard's first postseason game since 2021. He spent his first 11 seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers before the Bucks acquired him in a trade.

“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.”

Pascal Siakam had 36 points and 13 rebounds for the Pacers, who hadn't scored fewer than 99 points in the regular season while averaging a league-high 123.3 points per game. The Pacers shot 8 of 39 from 3-point range.

Indiana, which had won four of its five regular-season meetings with the Bucks, is making its first playoff appearance since 2020. The Pacers haven't advanced beyond the opening round since 2014.

“It's easy to just say we missed shots and now we're nervous or whatever,” said Indiana's Tyrese Haliburton, who had nine points, eight assists and seven rebounds. “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.”

Khris Middleton had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Bucks, while Bobby Portis added 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Lillard had 19 points in the opening period, the highest first-quarter point total by any player in a playoff opener since at least 1997. He had the highest first-half point total for any player in a postseason contest since Kevin Durant had 38 at the break for the Golden State Warriors in a 2019 first-round game with the Los Angeles Clippers.

He then got some help from his teammates while taking a well-deserved breather. Milwaukee outscored Indiana 14-3 while Lillard was on the bench for nearly the first five minutes of the second quarter.

Once Lillard returned, he picked up right where he’d left off. He sank a 3-pointer while getting fouled and completed a four-point play to extend Milwaukee’s lead to 65-35. The Bucks were ahead 69-42 at halftime.

“The first half was embarrassing,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “No excuses. We’ve simply got to come out better. It was ugly, and we all own it.”

Indiana closed the third quarter with nine straight points to get Milwaukee’s lead down to 83-71, but the Bucks regained control.

Jae Crowder and Malik Beasley made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to start an 8-0 run that extended Milwaukee’s lead to 99-77 with 8:10 left. Milwaukee stayed ahead by at least 14 the rest of the way.

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle reacts during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle reacts during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts from the bench during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts from the bench during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez tries to get by Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez tries to get by Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Patrick Beverley gets past Indiana Pacers' Tyrese Haliburton during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Patrick Beverley gets past Indiana Pacers' Tyrese Haliburton during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Indiana Pacers' Pascal Siakam blocks the shot of Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Indiana Pacers' Pascal Siakam blocks the shot of Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Aaron Nesmith during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Aaron Nesmith during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard reacts after making a shot and being fouled during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard reacts after making a shot and being fouled during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Andrew Nembhard during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard gets past Indiana Pacers' Andrew Nembhard during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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Spain, Ireland and Norway recognize a Palestinian state. Why does that matter?

2024-05-28 17:35 Last Updated At:17:40

Spain, Ireland and Norway are moving to formally recognize a Palestinian state on Tuesday, a step toward a long-held Palestinian aspiration that was fueled by international outrage over the civilian deaths and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s offensive.

The joint decision by two European Union countries plus Norway, a nation with a strong diplomatic tradition in peacemaking, may generate momentum for the recognition of a Palestinian state by other EU countries and could spur further steps at the United Nations, deepening Israel’s isolation.

Previously seven member of the 27-nation European Union officially recognized a Palestinian state. Five of them are former east bloc countries who announced recognition in 1988, as did Cyprus, before joining the bloc. Sweden's recognition came in 2014.

The Czech Republic, an EU member, says that the 1988 recognition by the former Czechoslovakia — of which it then formed a part — does not apply to the modern state. Slovakia's Foreign Ministry says that the two sides confirmed their mutual recognition when Slovakia was becoming independent in 1992-93, and that the Palestinian state has a fully functioning embassy in Bratislava since 2006.

EU members Malta and Slovenia say they may follow suit, though not immediately.

Some 140 of the about 190 countries represented in the U.N. have already recognized a Palestinian state.

Here’s a look at how and why the new European announcements could be important:

A U.N. partition plan in 1947 called for the creation of a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state, but Palestinians and the wider Arab world rejected it because it would have given them less than half of the land even though Palestinians made up two-thirds of the population.

The Arab-Israeli war the following year left Israel with even more territory, Jordan in control of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and Egypt in control of Gaza.

In the 1967 war, Israel seized all three territories, and decades of on-again, off-again peace talks have failed.

The United States, Britain and other Western countries have backed the idea of an independent Palestinian state existing alongside Israel as a solution to the Middle East’s most intractable conflict, but they insist Palestinian statehood should come as part of a negotiated settlement. There have been no substantive negotiations since 2009.

Though the EU countries and Norway won’t be recognizing an existing state, just the possibility of one, the symbolism helps enhance the Palestinians’ international standing and heaps more pressure on Israel to open negotiations on ending the war.

Also, the move lends additional prominence to the Middle East issue ahead of June 6-9 elections to the European Parliament.

Diplomatic pressure on Israel has grown as the battle with Hamas stretches into its eighth month. The U.N. General Assembly voted by a significant margin on May 11 to grant new “rights and privileges” to Palestine in a sign of growing international support for a vote on full voting membership. The Palestinian Authority currently has observer status.

The leaders of Spain, Ireland, Malta and Slovenia said in March they were considering recognizing a Palestinian state as “a positive contribution” toward ending the war.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that his Cabinet would certify the formal recognition after a meeting Tuesday.

“This is a historic decision that has a single goal, and that is to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace,” Sánchez said.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement that “for more than 30 years, Norway has been one of the strongest advocates for a Palestinian state. Today, when Norway officially recognizes Palestine as a state, is a milestone in the relationship between Norway and Palestine.”

While dozens of countries have recognized a Palestinian state, none of the major Western powers has done so, and it is unclear how much of a difference the move by the three countries might make.

Even so, their recognition would mark a significant accomplishment for the Palestinians, who believe it confers international legitimacy on their struggle.

Little would likely change on the ground in the short term. Peace talks are stalled, and Israel’s hardline government has dug its heels in against Palestinian statehood.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz lashed out at Spain on X, saying Sánchez’s government was “being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes.”

Israel, which rejects any move to legitimize the Palestinians internationally, recalled its ambassadors to Ireland, Norway and Spain after they announced the decision last week.

Steps like the ones by the three European countries will harden the Palestinian position and undermine the negotiating process, Israel says, insisting that all issues should be solved through negotiations.

Israel often responds to foreign countries’ decisions deemed as going against its interests by summoning those countries’ ambassadors and also punishing the Palestinians through measures such as freezing tax transfers to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

Some 140 countries have already recognized a Palestinian, more than two-thirds of the United Nations' membership.

Some major powers have indicated their stance may be evolving amid the outcry over the consequences of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The ministry does not distinguish between noncombatants and fighters in its count. Israel launched the offensive following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in which militants stormed across the Gaza border into Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage.

Britain has said no recognition of a Palestinian state could come while Hamas remains in Gaza, but that it could happen while Israeli negotiations with Palestinian leaders were in progress.

France has indicated that it isn’t ready to join other countries in recognizing a Palestinian state, even if it isn’t opposed to the idea in principle. German has said it will not recognize a Palestinian state for the time being.

Follow AP’s Israel-Hamas coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, May 22, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway announced Wednesday May 22, 2024 their recognition of a Palestinian state. Malta and Slovenia, which also belong to the 27-nation European Union, may follow suit amid international outrage over the civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following Israel's offensive. (Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via AP)

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, May 22, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway announced Wednesday May 22, 2024 their recognition of a Palestinian state. Malta and Slovenia, which also belong to the 27-nation European Union, may follow suit amid international outrage over the civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following Israel's offensive. (Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via AP)

The three Irish Government leaders from left, Minister Eamon Ryan, Taoiseach Simon Harris and Tanaiste Micheal Martin speak to the media during a press conference outside the Government Buildings, in Dublin, Ireland, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state.(Damien Storan/PA via AP)

The three Irish Government leaders from left, Minister Eamon Ryan, Taoiseach Simon Harris and Tanaiste Micheal Martin speak to the media during a press conference outside the Government Buildings, in Dublin, Ireland, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state.(Damien Storan/PA via AP)

FILE - People gather in support of the Palestinain people, amid the conflict with Israel, in front of the parliament building in Oslo, Norway, on May 19, 2021. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state. (Berit Roald/NTB via AP, File)

FILE - People gather in support of the Palestinain people, amid the conflict with Israel, in front of the parliament building in Oslo, Norway, on May 19, 2021. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state. (Berit Roald/NTB via AP, File)

FILE - A boy waves a Palestinian flag as demonstrators march during a protest in support of Palestinians and calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in Barcelona, Spain, on Jan. 20, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

FILE - A boy waves a Palestinian flag as demonstrators march during a protest in support of Palestinians and calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in Barcelona, Spain, on Jan. 20, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

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