With the NBA All-Star Weekend just a few days away, teams are continuing to jockey for position in the Eastern and Western conference playoff races. Such is the case for today’s showdown between Central Division rivals, the (42-14) Milwaukee Bucks and (38-19) Indiana Pacers (7:05 PM ET Wednesday).
Entering this game, the Bucks are the top team in the Eastern Conference, leading the second-place Toronto Raptors by one game and the third place Pacers by 4.5 games. It’s not a huge gap by any means though, especially given just how many times this season the Bucks and Pacers will meet. Today is one of those times and it’s a great opportunity for the surging Pacers, who are the home team and who have won their last seven games, to gain ground in the standings right before the break.
So far this season, the Bucks and Pacers have met twice with the two teams splitting their meetings, both home teams emerging victorious. Indiana will play host at Bankers Life Fieldhouse where the team has lost just seven of 29 home games this year. One of these victories was against the Bucks in a game that went to a 113-97 final in favor of the Pacers. Indiana is also in possession of a league-best seven-game winning streak but Milwaukee is no slouch in that department either, winning eight of their last nine.
It will be a great showdown when these two teams take the court with both playing exceptionally well and both entering with high expectations for a victory. Let’s take a look at some of the X-Factors which could lead to a win for the two sides and end with our Milwaukee Bucks vs Indiana Pacers predictions and picks.
Indiana’s X-Factor: Scoring Defense
Offensively, the Pacers are just a middle of the road team averaging 22nd of 30 NBA teams in scoring, with just 108.3 points per game. 108 might seem like a lot but scoring has been on the rise this year with all 30 teams averaging over 100 points and the top-five teams averaging over 115. So putting it in context, the Pacers level of scoring just hasn’t been there this year. That’s not to say the team doesn’t have impact players however, namely Victor Oladipo who leads the team with an average of 18.8 PPG, 5.6 rebounds per game and 1.6 steals. Oladipo was injured during the team’s January 23rd game against the Raptors and is out for a season. His is a big loss as during the Pacers first victory over the Bucks, Oladipo recorded a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds).
Where Indiana has shone is in their defense as the Pacers rank 1st in the NBA in scoring defense allowing just 102.8 points per game. That’s nearly six points less than Indiana averages and it would explain why, despite a lackluster offense, the Pacers are still one of the best teams in their conference. As far as point differential goes, Indiana’s mark of +5.5 is good enough for fifth best (tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder) in the NBA.
If the Pacers can continue to do what they’ve done best all year long and that’s clamp down defensively, they should be able to keep pace with the Bucks. However, that’s easier said than done because, for as much as an X-Factor Indiana’s defense has been, Milwaukee has a pretty good defense too, leading the league in opponent’s field goal percentage at just .431. The bigger issue for Indiana is that their defense will have to compete with Milwaukee’s X-Factor, their offense, which is second best in the NBA.
Milwaukee’s X-Factor: Offense
The Bucks have the second best scoring offense in the NBA and top in the Eastern Conference, averaging 117.1 PPG. In addition, they lead in point differential at a mark of +9.8, which is over two points more than the Golden State Warriors’ second best mark.
It is often said that defense wins championships but that’s an adage that has never quite applied to the NBA, especially of late. The league has become more and more of a scorer’s paradise with offense being at a premium. Reasons like these are why offense over defense is prioritized in this NBA and why the Bucks being a top offense holds more weight than the Pacers being a top defense. Though sometimes, offense and defense play hand-in-hand such as the fact that the Bucks also lead the NBA in rebounds per game, averaging 48.8. That means more opportunities on offense for the league’s second best offense, something the Pacers will have to try to guard against. Considering the team ranks 24th in that category and that’s with Oladipo in the lineup, they could have a long night on the boards today.
Offensively, the Bucks are led by one of the NBA’s best players in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 27.1 PPG, which is good enough for seventh best in the league. He also averages 12.6 rebounds, which is good enough for sixth best, and is one of just three players, the other two being Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid, to rank in the top-seven in both categories. A threat on both offense and defense, Antetokounmpo is the full package and alongside high scoring efforts from Khris Middleton (17.1 PPG), Eric Bledsoe (16 PPG), Nikola Mirotic (16.7 PPG) and Malcolm Brogdon (15.7 PPG), has helped the Bucks succeed as much as they have this year.
Our Betting Preview’s Milwaukee Bucks at Indiana Pacers Picks & Predictions Verdict
When the season began, it is likely that not many would have expected to find the Bucks and Pacers sitting at #1 and #3 in the Eastern Conference but here we are.
Entering this game, the Bucks are 3.5 or 4-point favorites at the American sportsbooks’ websites and I do like the Bucks in this one. Despite being on the road where the team is 19-9 compared to 23-5 at home, Milwaukee is the more well-rounded team and not dealing with major injuries. That being said, I do expect the Pacers to keep it close on their home court.
Offense is king in the NBA but if the Pacers are going to keep it close, it is because their defense is doing its job. They may not keep it close enough. These are the Milwaukee Bucks vs Indiana Pacers predictions for this preview:
- Bet on the Bucks -3.5pts @ best odds of -110 with Intertops. That spread is -116 with BetOnline, -115 with Bookmaker and Bovada go -4pts for -105.
- Look for the under on the total points of 220pts @ -109 with BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.