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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Indiana Pacers Preview: Midwestern heavyweights clash in Vegas

The In-Season Tournament Semis are set!

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

At long last, we have reached the semifinals of the inaugural NBA In-Season tournament! On Thursday afternoon, your Milwaukee Bucks will be taking on the Indiana Pacers in Las Vegas for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in Saturday’s championship.

Where We’re At

The Bucks sit at 12-5 overall and 5-0 in In-Season Tournament action. They earned their trip to the desert by taking down the Knicks in the quarterfinals on Tuesday night. In that matchup, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a hyper-efficient 35 points and led the squad to a season-high 146 total points. Stuffing the statsheet has been a regular occurrence for Giannis this season, as the superstar has surpassed 30 points in 10 of his last 13 games.

That’s not to say Giannis hasn’t had quality help this season. In the aforementioned quarterfinal against New York, Damian Lillard had 28 points of his own, shooting 8-for-13 from the field, including 5-for-7 from deep. It seemed like the entire Bucks’ lineup caught fire in that matchup; the team combined to shoot a ridiculous 60.5% from 3-point range. The Bucks have also shown improvement on the defensive side of the ball. You wouldn’t know it from glancing at a box score (seriously, it’s still really ugly), but the team’s defensive rating has hovered around 10th over the past several games, which is leaps better than the mid-20s numbers we were seeing at the beginning of the year.

On November 9th, the Pacers improved to 6-3 after taking down the Bucks in a thrilling 126-124 contest. In the 27 days since, the basketball gods have been a little less kind to Indiana, and the team has moved to 11-8. On the bright side though, they took down Celtics in the tournament quarterfinals to reach this matchup with the Bucks. Throughout this season, Tyrese Haliburton has solidified himself as one of the brightest youngsters in the NBA. The 23-year-old guard is averaging 26.9 points and a league-leading 11.9 assists per game. This team’s talent doesn’t stop there, as they have eight players holding double digit averages in points, including Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, and Bennedict Mathurin. The Pacers also lead the league in points per game (128.4), assists per game (30.2), and field goal percentage (50.9), so it’s safe to say the Bucks have their work cut out for them defensively.

Injury Report

The Bucks will be missing Jae Crowder, who is recovering from the adductor and abdominal tears he suffered on November 11th. Pat Connaughton will also be sidelined with an ankle injury.

For Indiana, power forward Jalen Smith is out with a heel injury.

Player To Watch

I’m going to be watching Malik Beasley. I’ve mentioned my affinity for his style of play before, and that hasn’t changed. Over the last two games, he has combined for 34 total points and 10-for-17 from beyond the arc. Yes, he’s also had a couple of rough shooting outings this season, but I’ll be watching to see if he—and the rest of the Bucks—can keep the lights-out shooting streak alive and punch a ticket to the ‘ship.

How To Watch

ESPN at 4:00 p.m. CST.


Game 22: Against the Pacers, the Bucks will...

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