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Bucks vs. Pacers Preview + Game Thread: Milwaukee desperate to stop bleeding in Indiana

The Bucks roll into Indiana looking to beat the Pacers for a third straight time this season. But Milwaukee has also been a mess over the past week, dropping three straight while Indiana has stormed to the top of the Central.

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2012/2013 NBA Season
(19-14, 11-3 home)
(16-15, 7-7 road)
January 5, 2012
Bankers Life Fieldhouse | Indianapolis, IN
6:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
George Hill PG Brandon Jennings
Lance Stephenson SG Monta Ellis
Paul George SF Luc Mbah a Moute
David West PF Ekpe Udoh
Roy Hibbert C Larry Sanders
2012/13 Advanced Stats
90.1 (25th) Pace 93.8 (6th)
100.3 (29th) ORtg 102.1 (25th)
99.1 (1st) DRtg 103.1 (8th)

On the Pacers: Indy Cornrows | Eight Points, Nine Seconds | SB Nation Indiana

Pacers update. Indiana had won six of seven heading into Boston last night, but they shot a miserable 32% from the field on their way to a 94-75 loss to the Celtics, who had themselves lost four straight by at least 10 points. Paul George and David West were both a miserable 4/18 from the field while Indy's only bright spot was Tyler Hansbrough (7/11 fg, 19 pts in 23 min). The Pacers were without starting point guard George Hill for the third straight game (strained groin), though no word quite yet if he'll be back tonight. D.J. Augustin will start if Hill is unable to go.

So which Pacer team will show up tonight? Odds are it will be a defensive one. Frank Vogel's club leads the league in defensive efficiency as well as fg%, 3fg% and eFG% allowed, and even last night they held the Celtics to under their league-leading season average.

But the Pacers have also needed that stingy defense: they rank second-to-last in offensive efficiency thanks to a general inability to make shots (28th in eFG%) and a penchant for turning it over (28th) in turnover rate. Combine that with the Bucks' 25th rankd offense and 8th ranked defense, and you have all the makings of a bricklaying fest in Indianapolis. Hooray!

Bucks struggles. Scott Skiles finally ended the "Marquis Daniels starting" experiment last night against the Rockets, and for at least one half it worked out pretty well. The Bucks rode a unit of mostly bench players (Jennings, Udrih, Dunleavy, Ilyasova and Henson) to a 24-5 run that staked them to a 58-47 halftime lead, only to collapse behind an avalanche of turnovers and missed shots in the third.

"It appeared we just lost focus coming out of the locker room," said coach Scott Skiles. "That was as bad a collapse as I've ever seen and it happened so fast.

"Just turnover, turnover, turnover. It looked like we started going one-on-one instead of moving the ball like we did in the first half. Then when we did get a decent shot at the basket, if we missed, we didn't run back.

"They just ran by us and went down and scored."

The Bucks set a new season-high with 25 turnovers and have now surrendered 115 and 117 points in back-to-back games after going seven straight without allowing more than 96. The one bright spot was John Henson, who followed up Wednesday's 20-point effort with 11 points, 15 boards and two blocks in a career-high 27 minutes. But Henson also hit just 1/5 fg in the second half and Scott Skiles was, ahem, measured in his assessment of the rookie after the game.

"He was OK again tonight," Skiles said. "His talent is obvious. He's got to get into the details of the game. He's got to know the plays. He's got to be able to execute after a timeout.

"He's got to become a better screener. All the things we're trying to impress upon him. But there's no question he's getting better."

Matchups. Mbah a Moute held up rather well against David West when the teams last met in Milwaukee, a 98-83 win fueled by Brandon Jennings' 34 points. That said, starting Udoh at PF shouldn't hurt the Bucks defensively, while moving Mbah a Moute to small forward puts the Bucks' best defender against Indiana's leading scorer in George. The 2010 tenth overall pick has been forced into the role of go-to scorer in Danny Granger's absence, and in the process has not surprisingly seen his scoring efficiency drop to league average levels (52.9% true shooting from 55.5% last year) in the process. Still, the 22-year-old does a bit of everything and has the look of a likely all-star down the road, trailing only West in scoring (16.6 ppg vs. 17.0) while adding an excellent 7.3 rpg and 3.7 apg in addition to 1.5 steals and nearly one block per game.

Injuries. Sam Young (ankle) is out, Lance Stephenson seems to be over his illness (strep throat) and George Hill (thigh) is a game-time decision but Pacers beat reporter Mike Wells says we should expect Hill to start:

Injury Update: Ersan Ilyasova will also miss the game due to a right ankle injury, according to Bucks PR.

Eastern Standings

Miami Heat 30 22-8 .733
New York Knicks 31 21-10 .677
Atlanta Hawks 30 20-10 .667
Indiana Pacers 32 19-13 .594
Chicago Bulls 30 17-13 .567
Milwaukee Bucks 30 16-14 .533
Brooklyn Nets 32 17-15 .531
Philadelphia 76ers 33 15-18 .455
Boston Celtics 31 14-17 .452
Toronto Raptors 32 12-20 .375
Orlando Magic 32 12-20 .375
Detroit Pistons 34 12-22 .353
Charlotte Bobcats 31 8-23 .258
Cleveland Cavaliers 33 7-26 .212
Washington Wizards 30 4-26 .133

Indiana Pacers Roster

# Pos.
D.J. Augustin 14 G
Paul George 24 F
Danny Granger 33 F
Gerald Green 25 G
Tyler Hansbrough 50 F
Ben Hansbrough 23 G
Roy Hibbert 55 C
George Hill 3 G
Orlando Johnson 11 G
Ian Mahinmi 28 C
Jeff Pendergraph 29 C
Miles Plumlee 13 F
Lance Stephenson 1 G
David West 21 F
Sam Young 4 F