Giannis Antetokounmpo returns from DNP-1.5 Quarters (Ejection)
Fresh off an entertaining victory over the Detroit Pistons, the Milwaukee Bucks hit the road once again to face the Indiana Pacers. With Giannis Antetokounmpo racking up unintended rest and Khris Middleton taking the night off against Detroit, expect close to a full-strength squad for the Bucks tonight. (Author’s update: Guys be hurt)
Where We’re At
While the Bucks aren’t exactly crushing teams, they have begun to string together consecutive wins into a little streak for the first time this year. With an average margin of victory of just over 3.5 points, Adrian Griffin’s bunch have gotten past the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and Detroit Pistons in less than a week’s time. Their defense remains something of a wreck on paper and team rebounding continues to sit in the bottom-third of the league, but the offense led by Damian Lillard’s late heroics on numerous occasions has functioned enough to drag them over the line. The team is also continuing to get to the line at a league-best .348 FTA rate, four percentage points higher than the second-placed Mavericks (.302). It isn’t pretty, but for now it is effective in terms of Ws and Ls.
For the Pacers, they enter tonight’s game with the league’s best offense (121.5 ORTG, dropped 152 on San Antonio) and one of its worst defenses (117.0 DRTG, just had the Celtics drop 155 points on their heads in regulation). Recent wins over the Spurs and Jazz have them heading in a positive direction, and much of the offense continues to rest on Tyrese Haliburton’s shoulders — he’s averaging 22.9 points (.491/.373/.935) and 11.9 assists so far — alongside one of the fastest paces in the NBA. They hoist a ton of shots, have made them at top-five rates across multiple zones on the floor, and rarely turn it over; not a bad formula. A lack of size outside of Myles Turner and Jalen Smith plus sub-optimal perimeter defending has undermined the Pacers in the other direction, but for now they focus on winning drag races.
update: The injury report just came out. For the Bucks, Damian Lillard is listed as questionable with right calf soreness and Giannis Antetokounmpo is probable with left ankle soreness. Lindell Wigginton is available, but all other two-way players for both teams are out as well, for the curious. Otherwise, the Pacers have no injuries to report.
Player to Watch
I’m going to spotlight MarJon Beauchamp for the Bucks in this one. What was once a quirk has now become something of a trend: Adrian Griffin is assigning Beauchamp to defend elite guards/wings in spot minutes every night. Against the Pistons it was Cade Cunningham, against Atlanta Trae Young, against Philly Tyrese Maxey. The results may vary, but with so much of Indiana’s game running through Haliburton, don’t be surprised if the Bucks sophomore gets another call to test his mettle.
And for Indiana, let’s keep an eye on Bruce Brown. Having joined the Pacers via free agency this past summer, he too is given plenty of defensive work and will likely play a key role in trying to disrupt whatever semblance of order the Bucks can put together with the ball in their hands. He’s an ideal role player who found a spot to bloom in Denver; Can he keep it up with the Pacers?
How to Watch
Bally Sports WI/NBA TV at 6:00 PM CST
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