After the emotional lows of four straight losses, the Bucks finally found a peak again last night by taking down the Philadelphia 76ers. Tonight, they travel back to corn country for their second matchup in three games against the Pacers.
Milwaukee’s swoon had many fans questioning what was the culprit, particularly with Giannis Antetokounmpo playing below his MVP-level standards of late. Coming back from 20-plus point deficits twice in last night’s game helps heal some of those wounds, but a one-game blip does not a course correction make. The vitality that seemed to rush through the team will need to translate to this matchup against the Pacers, particularly Milwaukee’s penchant for capitalizing on fast break opportunities off turnovers. Milwaukee kept it close partway through the third quarter against Indiana last Friday, but quickly found themselves clawing back from a huge deficit to no avail.
Update: One quick injury update for tonight’s game. Tyler Zeller is listed as out with right hip/back soreness and Khris Middleton is also supposed to be a game-time decision tonight due to right knee soreness.
Player to Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Bucks’ star pummeled the Sixers with a near triple-double performance last night, recapturing the magic that peppered much of his early season domination. Against Indiana, they packed the paint like farmers at a corn boil and prevented Giannis from getting to the goods at the rim. His just 6/18 performance still netted 24 points, but one would hope he can drop in a few more jumpers. His transition game was what made him deadly last night, he and Bledsoe should aim to run Oladipo and Myles Turner off the floor.
Indiana just polished off a tidy weekend, besting both Milwaukee and the Washington Wizards. Their 98-95 victory yesterday over the Wiz came on the back of a 33-point effort from Victor Oladipo. They continue to climb the ranks of the Eastern Conference, moving into the fourth spot by virtue of their win over the Wiz. The Pacers have outperformed expectations all year, and the Bucks will need a win tonight if they want to split the season series.
Player to Watch: Victor Oladipo
Oladipo’s firecracker athleticism has led to plenty of highlight plays by the resurgent guard. He managed 21 points, six assists and seven rebounds in 35 minutes against Milwaukee on Friday. Despite their relatively lethargic team pace, Oladipo’s steals can get Indiana running and the Bucks need to take care of the ball to prevent them capitalizing. In the halfcourt, Milwaukee needs to prevent his penetration and dishing to Indiana’s bigs, who pulverized Milwaukee’s skinny frontline that is rapidly seeing less and less of Thon Maker (just four minutes last night).