The 46-7 Milwaukee Bucks have cracked the code of the regular season. The team hasn’t lost consecutive games all season and they are on pace for 71 wins despite playing their two All-Stars just 30.9 and 29.5 minutes per game.
The 31-23 Indiana Pacers badly need the All-Star break. Indiana has lost six contests in a row to fall to a clear sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Star guard Victor Oladipo has majorly struggled in his injury return in the past two weeks, and getting back into that top four seems unrealistic at this point.
These two squads will meet in Indianapolis today in the final game before the All-Star break (7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN).
The Bucks’ MVP favorite, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is out in this game due to his recently born son, but Milwaukee is 5-0 in his absence this season.
We’ll discuss some burning questions leading up to this game before we make some Milwaukee Bucks vs Indiana Pacers predictions on the betting outcomes of the contest. Those picks come at the end of this NBA game preview.
Will Pacers Make Threes With Any Kind of Volume?
If you look at the Bucks’ seven losses, there’s a common thread. Opponents average 18 made three-pointers on 41 attempts per game for a 43.9 percent success rate. When the Bucks win, opponents make just 13.4 threes on 38.8 attempts for a 34.7 percent rate of accuracy.
Simply put, if you don’t shoot (and make) a lot of threes against the Bucks, you are going to lose. That becomes slightly less true with Antetokounmpo out for Milwaukee, but the point still applies somewhat. Milwaukee prioritizes protecting the rim over defending the three-point line, so opponents need to take advantage of that and hope their shots are falling in that particular game.
Indiana ranks last in the NBA in three-point attempts per game, but the team is a solid ninth in percentage (36.6). The Pacers likely won’t have a ton of success finishing inside against the Bucks’ stout interior defense, so I’m looking for spot-up shooters like Doug McDermott, Justin Holiday and Myles Turner to shoot confidently in hopes of neutralizing the Bucks’ defensive strategy.
Is This the Game Victor Oladipo Finally Finds His Rhythm?
I feel bad for Oladipo. The Pacers’ two-time All-Star guard has given it his best shot returning from a major quad injury that happened a year ago, but things have been disastrous for both him and the Pacers since he returned two weeks ago. Indiana won Oladipo’s first game back, but the team has since lost six games in a row.
Oladipo averaged 23.1 points per game for the Pacers two years ago. So far, though, he has yet to score more than 15 points. He is shooting 29.5 percent from the field, 23.1 percent from three and is getting to the free-throw line at the lowest rate of his career.
Defensively, the 27-year-old wing still looks very good but offensively, he just needs to get his confidence back. He is settling for tough shots and being cautious with his drives in order to prevent re-injury.
In the final game before the All-Star break, let’s see if a marquee matchup here inspires him to give it his best effort and lead the Pacers’ offense to a surprisingly effective performance.
Can Indiana Take Advantage of Antetokounmpo’s Absence on the Glass?
When you think of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s best skills, rebounding may not be at the very top of the list. He has amazing defensive versatility, body control and finishing ability at the rim, and those may be more of what people think about with him.
However, Giannis is a fiend on the boards. He gobbles up 13.5 rebounds in just 30.9 minutes per game and had grabbed at least 16 caroms in his last six games before taking time off for the birth of his son. Milwaukee’s ability to attack in transition is contingent on being an elite defensive rebounding squad.
The Pacers are not a great rebounding team on either end of the floor. Aside from Domantas Sabonis, no one on the squad is particularly good at securing boards. If they can grab a decent number of offensive boards and stay relatively competitive on the defensive glass as well, the team will give itself a decent chance in this game.
Our Betting Preview’s Milwaukee Bucks vs Indiana Pacers Predictions & Picks
Is Milwaukee a better team without Antetokounmpo than the Pacers are when they are completely healthy? It’s a close call, and your opinion on that question will obviously play heavily into your opinion on this game.
Personally, I believe that these squads are very evenly matched here, but the Pacers have a lot more at stake today in terms of seeding and setting a positive tone for the rest of the season. Milwaukee may not be as motivated on the road in this game, knowing that a loss without its MVP wouldn’t be a huge deal.
I think Victor Oladipo will play his best game of the season thus far as he and the Pacers badly need a turn of momentum before the All-Star break. These are the Milwaukee Bucks vs Indiana Pacers predictions for this preview:
- The favorite here is Milwaukee Bucks by between 1.5 and 3 points with the best bookies for online betting from the USA. I think you should bet on the Pacers +3pts @ -110 with Bovada.
- I see the Pacers hitting a decent number of threes in this game with defensive stalwarts Antetokounmpo and George Hill out, while the Bucks’ transition game will be stifled without Antetokounmpo’s rebounding and fast break scoring. Bet the under 221.5pts @ -110, again that best option is with Bovada Sportsbook.