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Pacers vs. Bucks Preview: Jabari Parker & Giannis Antetokounmpo look to stay hot against Paul George and Pacers

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

What can Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo do for an encore?

That will be the operative question for Bucks fans after Monday night's thrilling 128-121 Bucks win over the Rockets, Milwaukee's highest-scoring output of the season and a game that oh by the way featured a scorching career-best 36 points from Jabari Parker and a second triple-double in seven days from his running mate Giannis Antetokounmpo. They continue their five-game homestand tonight against Paul George and the Indiana Pacers, who enter the day battling with Detroit, Chicago and Washington for the East's final two playoff spots.

Bucks Update

Milwaukee is 5-3 since the experiment began, with Antetokounmpo and Parker notably flourishing next to Khris Middleton, O.J. Mayo and Miles Plumlee in the Bucks' starting five. In 88 minutes together, the group has posted a +7.6 points rating, scoring a sizzling 109.8 points while allowing a solid 102.3 per 100 possessions per NBA.com. Since returning from the break, Jabari is posting an eye-popping 22.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 53.8% shooting, while Giannis is stuffing the stat sheet to the tune of 17.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 7.2 assists (!). Other than Giannis' free throw stroke (52.9%), there's been precisely nothing to complain about for Bucks fans, who after an often taxing first three months of the season have every right to be over the moon with their young stars' concurrent breakout. They might not be able to do this for the next six weeks, but...well, what if they can?

Off the bench, Greg Monroe is still averaging 15.1 points and 8.5 rebounds in nearly the same minutes off the bench (29.5) as he did as a starter (30.4), though his numbers have been down a bit since the all-star break as the offense has become increasingly focused around Giannis, Jabari and Khris (whose amazing 30 points on 10 shots was seemingly just a footnote on Monday). Notably absent on Monday was Michael Carter-Williams (knee tendinitis), and his status for tonight's game remains an obvious question mark. Jason Kidd's club didn't miss him on Monday thanks in large part to the return of Jerryd Bayless, who suited up for the first time since suffering a knee injury in the team's first post-all-star practice. Bayless scored 18 including a pair of crucial threes in the fourth quarter, continuing his remarkable run of playing well, getting hurt, and then contributing immediately after he gets back.

Otherwise the Bucks' injury report looks rather familiar, with John Henson's lower back injury continuing to keep him out and Greivis Vasquez still recovering from ankle surgery.

Pacers Scouting Report

Since the All-Star Break, Indiana has been a portrait of the intersection between luck and skill. The Pacers are 3-4 since the break, but five of those games have been decided by four or fewer points (two losses and three wins). They're a couple bounces away from a very different fate in either direction, but such a position is generally indicative of a team that just isn't playing very well in the first place.

Most immediately, Indiana has dropped three straight contests against Charlotte, Portland, and Cleveland. As a result, a team that earlier looked like a sure bet to make the playoffs and possibly challenge for a Conference Finals spot now finds its grip on the postseason tenuous at best. Indiana is just a half-game ahead of Chicago (another team in a worsening downward spiral) and 1.5 games ahead of the surging Washington Wizards for the East's final playoff spot. Indiana has relied on its defense all season, and they remain a stout unit in that regard, ranking third in the NBA in defensive rating. But they haven't been able to put together consistent offensive performances to match, and ”the last few weeks have consistently seen the Pacers playing down to the level  of competition. The last real "blowout" win on Indiana's resume came nearly a month ago when they knocked off the Brooklyn Nets 114-100. Indy is slightly-below-average in nearly every key offensive metric, from offensive rebounding to three-point shooting.

Still, this is a talented team with plenty of players who can burn you. In a close loss to the Cavaliers Monday night, the Pacers got big nights from Paul George and Monta Ellis, who combined for over 50 points. Myles Turner, the 11th overall pick in last summer's draft, has also been playing very well, averaging almost 14 points and 7 rebounds since joining the starting lineup a little over a month ago. Turner's emergence allows the Pacers to flex their muscle a bit more, rather than being restricted to a small-ball default where Paul George plays the 4. Also pushing the Pacers to go bigger: the absence of perennial Bucks killer C.J. Miles, who didn't travel with the team due to a strained calf.

On the PacersIndy Cornrows8 points, 9 seconds

15/16 NBA Season
Indiana pacers.vbc2aeb5
(31-29, 13-18 road)
vs.
(25-35, 17-10 home)
March 2, 2016
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:00 CT
FSN Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
George Hill PG O.J. Mayo
Monta Ellis SG Khris Middleton
Paul George SF Jabari Parker
Myles Turner PF Giannis Antetokounmpo
Ian Mahinmi C Miles Plumlee
15/16 Advanced Stats
97.0 (8th) Pace 94.3 (24th)
104.2 (23rd) ORtg 104.2 (24th)
102.4 (3rd) DRtg 108.6 (24th)