Shorthanded Bucks head home in 3-1 playoff hole vs. Pacers

Bobby Portis Jr. ejected after entanglement with Andrew Nembhard (1:11)

Bobby Portis Jr. is assessed a double technical foul and is ejected from the game after exchanging punches with Andrew Nembhard. (1:11)

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Milwaukee Bucks are heading home facing elimination without much clarity on the injury status of their two top scorers, Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf) and Damian Lillard (Achilles).

The star tandem sat out a 126-113 loss Sunday night to the Indiana Pacers as the Bucks fell behind 3-1 in this best-of-seven, first-round series. Game 5 is Tuesday in Milwaukee.

Already shorthanded, the Bucks' path to victory in Game 4 became even more difficult when forward Bobby Portis was ejected in the opening quarter after a scuffle with Indiana guard Andrew Nembhard.

"It's tough, down two of your best players, and then you're down one of your best players that's been playing off the bench all year long and now is in a starting role," said Bucks forward Khris Middleton, who finished with 25 points.

Portis received a double technical foul for what officials called two hostile acts following a play in which he got tangled with Nembhard trying to gain positioning for a rebound with 5:01 remaining in the first quarter. After Nembhard pushed Portis' arm away, Portis shoved him back, then made contact with Nembhard's head.

It was Portis' first ejection in a playoff game. He played seven minutes and scored four points on 2-of-4 shooting.

"For the most part of the year [Portis'] done a great job flirting with that line and not crossing it," Middleton said. "Tonight he just crossed over it at the worst time for us."

Still, the Bucks trailed by just three points at halftime, but the Pacers outscored them by 10 points in the third quarter. Indiana set a franchise record for most 3-pointers in a playoff game with 22 (on 43 attempts, 51.2%).

After losing its last five series in the first round, Indiana is poised to advance to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2013-14, when it reached the East finals.

"Game 1 I felt like they dictated the tempo. I would say the story of the last three games is that we have," Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton said. "In a world and a league that says, 'Oh, you can't play fast in the playoffs,' we don't really believe in that. We're going to be who we are and put our identity and our imprint on every game."

Sunday marked the 13th time a team has been without its top two regular-season scorers during a playoff game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Those teams are now 0-13.

"Our guys were playing their hearts out," Bucks coach Doc Rivers said. "I love that our team, no matter what anyone thought, we believed we could win this game. It shows a lot about this team. What I loved about it the most is that they were disappointed they didn't win the game.

"This is a great group to coach. I am telling you. I know we have a lot of stuff going on. Just clutter. Injuries. But man, I am loving this team every second I am with them. And today is another example tonight."

Prior to the game, Rivers gave an update on Lillard, who shed his walking boot while at the arena Sunday but did not participate in any on-court activities. However, Rivers emphasized the Bucks have not ruled him out of the rest of this series.

Rivers did provide perhaps his most optimistic update about Antetokounmpo. After the Bucks' two-time MVP participated in an on-court workout Sunday morning that included shooting and running with resistance, Rivers said he was still optimistic Antetokounmpo could return in this series.

"I think there's a chance for him to play in this series," Rivers said. "I really do."

Despite the 3-1 series deficit, Bucks players emphasized they did not want Antetokounmpo to rush back until he was ready to play.

"He's the ultimate team player, but obviously we don't want him to put himself in any danger he shouldn't be in," Bucks center Brook Lopez said. "He's going through all the rehab stuff, handling it the right way, getting his treatment. He's been around the team, which has been great for us.

"The guys that are going into Game 5, we have to prepare the way we've been preparing, and we'll see what happens. We just want Giannis to do whatever the smartest thing is for him to do."

Rivers said the Bucks now will focus on Tuesday with or without Antetokounmpo and Lillard.

"One game at a time," he said. "We have two games left at home. They have one game left at home. That's how you can look at it. The first thing is that we have to win the first game at home. We can talk about the rest after that."