This season, the NBA’s Central Division features three clear lottery teams and two teams in the playoffs. The two playoff squads will play their fourth and final game against each other today as the 37-24 Indiana Pacers visit the 52-9 Milwaukee Bucks (7.05pm ET Wednesday on ESPN).
Indiana has won each of its last four games in response to a stretch of seven losses in nine games. The Bucks lost against the Miami Heat on Monday. However, Milwaukee still hasn’t lost consecutive games this season.
Neither team has too many injuries, though Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is questionable to play due to knee issues. Oladipo hasn’t been playing at his normal levels this season, so his absence might not play as big of a role in this game as expected.
This preview will delve into the vagaries of this matchup before delivering our Indiana Pacers vs Milwaukee Bucks predictions.
Can Eric Bledsoe Slip Out of His Funk?
Bledsoe has been a very solid point guard for the Bucks for most of the year. He is a competent scorer and respectable shooter, a strong defender and a very good rebounder for his position.
Recently, he has struggled big time. In Bledsoe’s last three games, he has put up 6 points, 3.7 assists and 3.3 turnovers per game on 7-of-19 shooting from the field and 1-of-4 shooting from the three-point line. He has gotten to the free-throw line for just three total shots. Bledsoe mentioned after Sunday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets that he was feeling a bit sick.
Bledsoe’s inability to take care of the ball is the major bugaboo. The Bucks absolutely love defending other teams in the half court with their top-ranked defense, but careless live-ball turnovers by Milwaukee can level the playing field.
The Bucks’ veteran point guard needs to play smart in this contest, not forcing things and attacking or shooting when good opportunities present themselves to him.
Will the Bucks Force Referees to Call Fouls Inside?
The Bucks are pretty good at drawing fouls. They aren’t elite, but they are solid. The Pacers struggle significantly to draw contact inside. They don’t have any player in the top 30 of free throws attempted per game and the squad as a whole takes the fewest fouls shots per game (19.2) of any NBA team.
Recently, the Bucks haven’t gotten to the line as much as usual. They have attempted just 18 free throws per game in their last three games. MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo is at just 4.7 free throws per contest, a far cry from his average of 10.
If the Bucks start racking up the fouls inside, the Pacers won’t have much chance of keeping pace there. Milwaukee is an excellent defensive team around the rim and the Pacers aren’t a great three-point shooting team that can take advantage of the Bucks’ strategy of conceding three-pointers to players who would rather not take them.
Can Myles Turner Outplay Brook Lopez?
The starting centers for these teams are actually somewhat similar players. The Pacers’ Myles Turner and the Bucks’ Brook Lopez are both bigs who protect the rim extremely well and have a penchant for taking three-pointers. Neither is a great rebounder or a high-volume offensive option.
For the Pacers, a key to the game will be whether Turner can significantly outplay a similar player in Lopez. Turner’s three-point shooting has been more accurate than Lopez’ this season and Turner is also the quicker player. Overall, Turner is a little bit better of a player.
Since the Bucks are clearly the better team and also playing at home, though, Turner needs to be more than just a little bit better than Lopez to put the Pacers in position to win. If Turner is able to accurately hit threes and use his quickness to attack closeouts while still protecting the rim at a high level, he can do just that.
Our Preview’s Indiana Pacers vs Milwaukee Bucks Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
I think things are set up for a big Milwaukee win tonight. The Pacers are on a four-game winning streak, but all of their opponents have a 27-35 record or worse. The Bucks are a completely different beast and their outside shooting and three-point surrendering strategy matches up well against the Pacers.
The Bucks will also be angry about their loss against Miami on Monday, as well as the fact that the Pacers beat them during Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absence right before the All-Star break. Indiana has only played six road games against above-.500 opponents since December 5, but the squad is only 1-5 in those contests, with an average point differential of minus-16.3. These are this preview’s Indiana Pacers vs Milwaukee Bucks predictions:
- Milwaukee is the heavy favorite here, as it is slated to win by 11 points with most outlets. For the first of the picks, I suggest betting on the Bucks -11pts @ best odds of -105 with BetOnline.
- The Bucks are solid on offense but they really shine on defense. They will be playing extremely hard on that end to prevent another Pacers win against them and prove that the Indiana win when Antetokounmpo was out was a fluke. Bet the under 222pts @ -105 with Bovada or Bookmaker.