Bucks (29-32, lost last 2) @ Pacers (40-22, won last 6)
* 44.5% FG (18th) vs. 44.9% FG allowed (16th)
* 41.88 rpg (17th) vs. 44.68 rebounds allowed (27th)
* 23.87 apg (1st) vs. 13.98 TO pg (7th)
* 97.34 ppg (15th) vs. 93.94 points allowed (9th)
* 43.8% FG (24th) vs. 43.4% FG allowed (7th)
* 43.74 rppg (5th) vs. 42.10 rebounds allowed (17th)
* 18.47 appg (29th) vs. 14.18 TO pg (14th)
PG-Monta Ellis vs. George Hill
SG-Brandon Jennings vs. Paul George
SF-Carlos Delfino vs. Danny Granger
PF-Ersan Ilyasova vs. David West
C-Drew Gooden vs. Roy Hibbert
Milwaukee-Mike Dunleavy Jr., Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Epke Udoh, Larry Sanders
Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, Leandro Barbosa, Dahntay Jones, Lou Amundson
Injuries of note
Milwaukee-Larry Sanders (illness, day-to-day)
Indiana-Darren Collison (groin, out)
The Pacers have locked in a #3 seed in the Eastern Conference, and are currently the hottest team in the NBA. They’re on a league-high 6-game winning streak, are 9-1 over the last ten and are 15-4 over their last 19. All six wins of the streak have come, maybe not so coincidentally, in correspondence with George Hill’s first stint as a starter for Indiana. Hill has scored in double figures in all six wins, and has an unreal 30 assists to just 5 turnovers in that span. Over the last five games, the Pacers, normally in the 18 apg range, have averaged 21 assists to just 12 turnovers. While Hill is certainly not a true distributor, his sure-handedness, legit size and confidence running the Pacers’ offense has yielded some elite-level results on the offensive end, and he’s still one of, if not the, best Pacer perimeter defenders. Darren Collison’s injury may have been a blessing in disguise, as Hill is very clearly the answer, at least for the rest of this season and into the playoffs.
Conversely, the bucks are fighting for their playoff lives. At 29-32 and reeling, the Bucks are currently on the outside looking in at the East’s #8 seed. They are 2.5 games back, and need somewhat of a miracle to make the post-season. It would have to start with a win tonight, and Milwaukee is obviously desperate. Meanwhile, the Pacers may not, under normal circumstances, be motivated to even play their starters very much in tonight’s somewhat meaningless game. But first of all, the Pacers will want to keep their momentum going into a first round series; unlike the NFL, in the NBA’s weekly schedule whirlwind rhythm is everything. Secondly, in Saturday’s game @ Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings took exception to Danny Granger’s aggressive nature on the court, and started some non-sense Twitter rapping about Granger being a “fake tough guy.” Interesting. I guess Jennings should know a little bit about what fake tough guys look like. Anyway, the Pacers should be plenty motivated to stomp out this annoying cockroach of a wannabe playoff team.
Matchup-wise the Bucks are at an obvious disadvantage on the interior, which is where the Pacers killed them last time. Roy Hibbert had one of his better games of the season, as the undersized cadre of Ersan Ilyasova, Drew Gooden and Larry Sanders had no answers for the Pacers’ All-Star. The Bucks are a dangerous team offensively, as Jennings, Ilyasova and deadline-acquisition Monta Ellis can all light it up. Ilyasova’s pursuing the Bucks’ franchise three point percentage record, and while Ellis hasn’t worked out exactly as the Bucks probably planned he would, he’s already put up 30 or more three times this month. Also, Jennings had a near triple double on Saturday.
Prediction: Pacers 104, Bucks 97
The Pacers have scored 100 or more, while allowing under 100 in each of the last six consecutive wins. While the Bucks have had some success on the offensive end this year, they’ve not been the hard-nosed defensive-minded team that coach Scott Skiles would probably like. That finesse mentality never works against the Pacers. With the added motivation of Jennings, and his little Twitter war? Shouldn’t even be as close as I predicted.
Lucas Klipsch believes in justice. Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317