Milwaukee’s first trip to the playoffs since 2014-15 is within their grasp, and a win tonight would clinch a spot in the postseason dance. It would behoove Milwaukee to strip Tuesday’s 110-79 pounding by the Thunder from their memory banks, and shift their focus to beating the Pacers for the fourth time this season. Indiana is coming off a win over the Toronto Raptors, 108-90, keeping them in a tie with Miami and Chicago at the bottom of the playoff standings.
There’s little Bucks’ fans or players can take away from Tuesday night’s annihilation at the hands of Oklahoma City Westbrooks. It was a demolition derby from start to finish, only the Thunder drove a steel-plated Monster Truck while Milwaukee stalled out in a pine wood derby racer. If there’s any consolation, it’s that Milwaukee’s starters got plenty of rest, sitting out for the remainder of the game at the midway point of the third.
Giannis put up some decent numbers in the first quarter, but looked relatively inert against Oklahoma City’s brutish frontline of Adams, Gibson and Roberson. He finished with just 11 points, ten boards, four assists, three blocks and four turnovers. Roberson stranded Middleton on isolation island throughout the contest, and Khash could only muster nine points out of it. A forgettable affair all around.
The good news is that their next opponent is one they’ve hammered several times over. Milwaukee is 3-0 against the Pacers this year, with their margins of victory measuring 18, 16 and 14 respectively. Giannis and Khris combined for 42 points in their 99-85 win back on March 10th. Indiana couldn’t capitalize on the 13 turnovers by those two though, and the Pacers shot just 2-18 from deep. Indiana doesn’t have the rangy defender capable of locking up Giannis, and he’s wreaked havoc on both ends of the court in each contest.
More importantly, a win tonight means the Bucks have clinched a playoff spot while dealing damage to a foe clinging to the morass beneath Milwaukee in the standings.
John Henson and Malcolm Brogdon are still out for Milwaukee.
Indiana’s swoon amidst the postseason push has put quite the damper on their hopes of playing deep into April. They’re 3-7 in their last ten, but were able to put away the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, 108-90, conveniently playing them the game before Kyle Lowry’s return. It snapped a four-game losing streak, but the Pacers still sit in a three-way tie with Chicago and Miami for the 7th and 8th seeds. Chicago’s remaining schedule is littered with tanking teams, and Indiana has Orlando, Philadelphia and Atlanta after tonight. A win would go a long way towards keeping them in this slog towards a swift first-round exit.
Paul George has been on a tear of late, averaging 28.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game over his last ten. Of course, that hasn’t helped the Pacers’ record considerably, but should they make it into the playoffs, having their star heat up at the right time is never a bad idea. He’s struggled against the Bucks this season though, averaging just 18 per game (5.3 below his season average), to go along with 4.7 turnovers. Not ideal for your potential All-NBA candidate.
The preseason bluster about Indiana somehow speeding up their offense never materialized this year, and with only a few games to go they’ve been the 12th slowest team in the league. That, combined with their middle of the pack offensive and defensive rating has led to a forgettable season whose lasting memory seems to be the uncertainty about whether their star will stick with the team going forward. Their reticence to shoot the three despite the sixth-best percentage from deep in the league is a convenient analogue to this Bucks’ team too.
For the nostalgic folks out there, the Pacers waiving Rodney Stuckey opened up a roster spot that Larry Bird used to sign Lance Stephenson. Stephenson flamed out when playing away from the friendly confines of Bird’s tutelage, and he already sparked a dustup in their game against the Raptors. Good to have you back Lance.
Al Jefferson is questionable for tonight with a sprained left ankle, and Glenn Robinson III is listed as out.