The Indiana Pacers face a tough test to arrest an alarming loss of form when they visit Eastern Conference leaders the Milwaukee Bucks, live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Friday morning (1am).
Live NBA: Indiana @ Milwaukee
The Pacers (42-23) are in a minor skid right now, coming into this matchup having lost three of their last five games. What has been really discouraging about those defeats is the teams they have come against – the Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons, all teams that the third-place Pacers would expect to beat.
Indiana’s defense will keep them in contention in games – the Pacers ranks first in the NBA in points allowed. Myles Turner’s seven blocks in the team’s most recent win illustrated their defensive strength and they have successfully stifled opponents throughout the season.
The Bucks (48-16) own one of the best home records in the league – they’re 25-5 at Fiserv Forum this season.
Milwaukee have truly established themselves as one of the NBA’s best teams in the league. Not only do they own the best record in the NBA, but they’re also the only team who sits top-five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They are the best two-way team club in the league right now.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has maintained MVP-calibre form throughout the season, leading the Bucks with 27.0 points, 12.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game.
This marks the fourth and final meeting between these teams, with Milwaukee prevailing in two of three. They’ve also been relatively lopsided games, with the victor averaging a 14-point winning margin.
Key battle: Pacers perimeter defense vs Bucks three-point shooters
Powered by distance shooters Brook Lopez, Nikola Mirotic and Khris Middleton, the Bucks take (38.0 per game) and make (13.3 per game) the second-highest number of three-pointers in the NBA.
That could spell bad news for Indiana who rank 14th in terms of three-point baskets conceded per game. The Pacers will have their hands full containing Antetokounmpo on the interior.
If the ‘Greek Freak’ kicks the ball out to his team-mates at the three-point line, that will also pose problems for the Pacers.
Last time out
8.8 – That’s the Bucks net rating, the differential between the points they score per 100 possessions (113.2) and the points they concede per 100 possessions 104.4), per NBA.com/stats. It’s the best in the NBA by some distance.
Milwaukee’s numbers speak loudly – the club rank top-three in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Bucks are the only team in the league to own that distinction and it emphasizes just how dangerous they are at both ends of the floor.
One of watch (Pacers): Bojan Bogdanovic
Where would the Pacers find scoring after losing star man Victor Oladipo to a season-ending injury? Look no further than Bogdanovic.
The Croatian forward upped his scoring output from a season average 17.7 points per game to 23.1 in February, earning an Eastern Conference Player of the Week award for his trouble.
He has continued to answer the call this month, scoring 25 and 27 points in the Pacers last two outings.
One to watch (Bucks): Khris Middleton
Middleton struggled with his three-point shooting throughout December but has come on strong since. He’s now averaging 2.3 made threes a game and connecting on 37.7 per cent of his attempts from downtown.
Middleton has proven himself to be the Bucks’ best wing defender able to impose his will on the league’s most dangerous offensive players.