A once promising trip out west ended with the Milwaukee Bucks’ first back-to-back losses of the year. Will some home cooking against the tough as nails Indiana Pacers cure what ails the Bucks?
Is it me, or did it seem like the Bucks got caught staring directly at the Sun(s) to end their road trip in Phoenix? Haha, I’ll be here all week!
In all seriousness, losing to a widely-acknowledged abomination like the Phoenix Suns twice in a historically-dominant season is quite the feat. I can hear the trivia question write itself. That loss gave a sour tinge to a 3-2 road trip and kicked off a tiny bit of grumbling at Milwaukee’s relatively recent struggles. Since the All-Star break the Bucks have gone 5-2 (not bad!) but have posted a 112.2 defensive rating, good for 20th in the NBA. The offense has held roughly stable, but any decline in keeping opponents planted firmly on the ground is something to keep an eye on. Hopefully a return home, strides towards fuller health, and further integration of new parts goes a long way to balance things out.
As has been the case lately all three of Donte DiVincenzo, George Hill, and Sterling Brown remain sidelined with lingering injuries.
UPDATE: He’s baaaaaaaaaaack (!!!)
Donte DiVincenzo (heel) said he will dress and be available to play tonight. He last played for the Bucks on New Year’s Day.— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) March 7, 2019
Player to Watch: Khris Middleton
It doesn’t get much tougher than a 1-13 March night in Arizona, so it’d be sincerely appreciated if Khris Middleton could bounce back against a top-tier defense in Indiana. The Pacers use a heavy dose of one-on-one defense while tasking Myles Turner with clean-up duty in and around the paint. Such a strategy should give Khris, an accomplished iso scorer, a bevy of opportunties to play within his preferred game. Question is, will the shots fall?
I’m not sure we’ve seen a team hold onto a playoff spot with both hands as tightly as the Pacers have with the East’s third seed. Victor Oladipo’s awful knee injury nearly toppled the season, but after an initial four-game skid they’ve gone 9-4 and refuse to cede precious post-season ground. Their latest effort was a 105-96 win over the Chicago Bulls in which Bojan Bogdanovic led the team with 27 points, six rebounds, and two steals.
No individual can be credited with keeping the Pacers above water. Instead, coach Nate McMillan has slowed the offense to a near crawl and has tweaked a ball movement-heavy approach to lean ever more towards equal shot distribution. After adding Wesley Matthews as veteran help the already solid supporting cast around Oladipo has risen to the occasion and hold the league’s best true shooting mark (59.1%) and a 115.6 offensive rating since All-Star weekend. Without their star Indiana will have a mountain to climb in the playoffs, but getting past them in the regular season? That’s a different story altogether.
On the injury front Domantas Sabonis has been ruled out due to an ankle injury.
Player to Watch: Thaddeus Young
Young has quite the challenge as the man most often assigned to try and slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo. Thad was able to rein Giannis in to a 12 point outing once this year, but there was nothing doing the last time these teams met as Giannis put together a typical 33 point, 19 rebound, 11 assist game. Will tonight feature more of the former or the latter? If Young has his way, Antetokounmpo won’t find a triple-double nearly as forthcoming:
No excuses. He played a great game. Tough cover. I'll have my chance again....— Thad Young (@yungsmoove21) February 14, 2019
Game 65: Against the Pacers the Bucks will...
This poll is closed
Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)