It is yet another Central Division showdown as the Milwaukee Bucks prepare to host their In-Season Tournament foil, the Indiana Pacers. Today, the Bucks will attempt to right the wrong of their previous losses to the Pacers — the most recent being, of course, a 119-128 In-Season Tournament semifinal defeat last Thursday in Las Vegas.
Where We Are At
In spite of their loss in the IST, the Bucks continue to press on, last picking up an OT win over the Chicago Bulls on Monday to bounce back in the W column. That the lowly (and I mean lowly — 22nd in ORTG and 22nd in DRTG) Bulls were able to take the Bucks to OT in two of their three matchups this season is indicative of the uneven performances Milwaukee is capable of. Concerns/grumbles about the defensive scheme and personnel continue apace with the team’s season DRTG dropping back down to 23rd; meanwhile there remain questions on ensuring the great team offense can keep plugging away as both a more unified whole and in cases where one of Giannis Antetokounmpo or Damian Lillard struggle any given night. The bottom-line, though, is that the Bucks are consistently finding ways to score so much that they simply outrun opponents. Given the roster, it's the most viable winning strategy available to head coach Adrian Griffin.
We’ve been up close to witness the Indiana Pacers’s breakthrough season a couple times already. Having dispatched the Bucks to punch a ticket to the IST Final, Indiana couldn’t keep up with the Los Angeles Lakers, losing 109-123. Three-point shooting, which wasn’t a strong suit against the Bucks anyway, doomed the Pacers with the Lakers dominant inside. Much like the Bucks, though, Indiana immediately rebounded and beat the Detroit Pistons 131-123 on Monday. Including the IST Final, the Pacers are 4-1 in their last five and continue to carry the best offense in the entire NBA to boot.
The Bucks remain without Jae Crowder (adductor surgery) and Chris Livingston (left ankle sprain); Pat Connaughton (right ankle sprain) is nearing a return, but is listed as out for tonight. The Pacers will be without Andrew Nembhard and Jalen Smith as they recover from knee bone bruises.
Player to Watch
When Tyrese Haliburton hit the dagger three for the Pacers against the Bucks, he went the extra step and duly (and rightfully) mimicked Damian Lillard’s ‘Dame Time’ celebration. While Dame was cool with the celebration, he’d like to get his lick back tonight.
Damian Lillard on Tyrese Haliburton doing the Dame Time celebration:— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) December 8, 2023
"For as many times as I've done it to people, I can't be upset when somebody else does it...I've also known when you are having your moment, it's important to be careful and be humble." pic.twitter.com/nu1sY8rJBy
For Indiana, Bennedict Mathurin has started improving off his rookie season. The guard from Arizona scored 20 points in the In-Season Tournament final against the Lakers and followed that up with a 30-point performance against the Pistons. He averaged 17.8 points in December but struggled against Milwaukee in the last game, scoring only nine points while shooting 3-12 from the field.
How to Watch
Bally Sports WI at 7:00 PM CST
Game 23: against the Pacers, the Bucks will...
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