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Bucks vs. Pacers Preview: Indiana comes to town looking for their first road win

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Milwaukee is shooting for its first winning record since last November

NBA: Preseason-Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Emerging from New Orleans with a 117-113 win over the Pelicans, the Milwaukee Bucks offense looked competent (!) behind a barrage of three point attempts from Tony Snell, Matthew Dellavedova and, yes, Giannis Antetokoumnpo. Giannis continued his stellar play with a 24/10/7 line, and Jabari Parker posted his first 20+ point outing of the season with 21 on 7/14 shooting.

A preview wouldn’t be complete without a preview pod! Here is our Bucks-Pacers preview:

In what feels like the fiftieth time already this season, Milwaukee will take on the Indiana Pacers, who sit at 2-2 after putting away the lively Los Angeles Lakers 115-108 on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the Bucks are hoping to tip their record over .500 for the first time since November 7, 2015.

Bucks Update

After several sloppy affairs, the Bucks offense picked up the pace versus the New Orleans Pelicans. Their 32 three point attempts were the most during Jason Kidd’s tenure with the team and over double last season’s average of 15.6/game. They’re averaging 21.6/game this season, so we’ll see whether that 32 was a mirage or a sign they’re slinging away.

Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to put up gaudy stat lines, with his season averages sitting at 23.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists with 2.0 blocks/game. And yes, he’s been more willing to shoot threes this season, launching six attempts in the Pelican game. Sure, he may have missed the first five, but the one that mattered looked silky smooth.

Jabari Parker continued to pummel towards the rim with reckless abandon, but he also displayed a bit more tact by hitting two jumpers to start the second half — and there was even a glimpse of Baseline Bari. His reticence to shoot open jumpers remains puzzling, but the Pelicans game was a promising sign for a Bucks fanbase on the brink of self-destruction.

Tony Snell also broke out of his shell with 13 points and ten rebounds on 3-9 shooting from deep. Several times Giannis found Snell by giving him a dribble hand-off along the arc and screening Snell’s man to give him the sliver of space necessary to get a shot off. It’s something we saw with Giannis and Khris Middleton a fair bit last spring, and I’d expect that action to show up more in the next few games.

Despite the offensive fireworks, Milwaukee’s defense continued to look like a dam about to burst. Anthony Davis faced a carousel of defenders but still got his casual 35 and 15. The more distressing fact was Tim Frazier penetrating at will; Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis carved the Bucks up through their drives to the hoop in the preseason, so shoring up the perimeter D will be a priority. Not to mention containing Paul George and most improved candidate Myles Turner.

It doesn’t look like anyone is hurt outside of Middleton, so expect the same starting lineup as last game. Jason Kidd pulled Giannis out around the 7:00 minute mark of the first quarter, having him replace Jabari several minutes later — the first we’ve seen of a conscious attempt to stagger their time on the court this season. Not only does it ensure one of their two stars are on the court at almost all times, but it blissfully spares us of those Brogdon-Vaughn-Snell-Beasley-Monroe lineups.

Pacers Update

Indy dispatched the Lakers on Tuesday night with Paul George scoring the Pacer’s final 12 points to put away Los Angeles for good. George expressed frustration with the team’s defensive effort after the fact. It’s the early going obviously, but Indiana ranks just 22nd in defensive rating thus far, a far cry from their top ten rankings the previous three seasons (3rd, 7th and 1st respectively) but perhaps not too surprising for a team that swapped George Hill and Ian Mahinmi for Jeff Teague, Thad Young and Al Jefferson.

Despite only having nine points against the Lakers, Myles Turner is starting to make “the leap” for the Pacers, averaging 18 points, 9.3 board, 3 blocks a game with a 26.7 PER. Whether the Bucks’ deluge of centers will be able to keep him off the boards and guard his perimeter shooting ability should be a key part of the tilt.

On the downside, Jeff Teague continues to feel his way into the new role in Indiana. While he’s only averaging 8.3 points with a piddly 5.0 PER, he is dishing out 7.3 assists. Teague’s facilitation and ability to create off the dribble was a big reason why they sent George Hill packing, although Hill’s dominating 22 point, 7 assist performance in Utah’s win against the Spurs probably made Pacers fans a little sick. Larry Bird’s insistence to play with more pace has the team near the top ten in offensive rating, all without a noticeable uptick in 3-pointers. Indiana is tied for 23rd in 3-point attempts per game with 22.3. Milwaukee ranks right behind them with 21.8, although that’s buoyed by their game against New Orleans.

Indiana is yet to win on the road, falling to Brooklyn (103-94) and getting shellacked by the surprisingly frisky, three-point bombing Bulls (118-101). The Bucks and Pacers split their two games in the preseason, but both are hoping to get back above .500 with a win tonight.

It looks like the only guy missing for the Pacers is Rodney Stuckey, a good sign for the Bucks given he torched them for 21 points in their first preseason game.

On the Pacers: Indy Cornrows | 8 points, 9 seconds | Indy Star